Unbeknown to Dave and Linda Carlson, their son John sent money to his youngest sister to support her while she attended college.
After John's death at age 51, Dave and Linda learned he and his wife, Debra, financially helped their siblings, nieces, nephews, co-workers, and community.
"We didn't know about it for years," Linda said of their son's unspoken generosity. Debra just told them recently that she and John, who had no children themselves, would buy school supplies for youngsters in their Long Beach, Calif., community.
"John was such a giver. He was always giving of himself. He took care of everybody," Linda said.
Receiving the Annual Report from the Community Foundation of Chippewa County in the mail prompted the Chippewa Falls couple to establish the John Andrew Carlson Memorial Seedling Fund in memory of their son, who passed away in 2016 from heart complications. They used money from memorial gifts in honor of John, a 1983 graduate of Chippewa Falls Senior High School.
The fund will provide scholarships for local high school graduates who plan to study electrical mechanical technology at a Wisconsin technical college like John. After earning an associate of arts degree in 1986 at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, John was among a group of eight CVTC graduates recruited by McDonnell Douglas, now The Boeing Company, to work on a new airplane. John moved up the career ladder, becoming a lead electronic test equipment technician for the company. He focused on its C-27 cargo aircraft for the armed forces, Dave said.
"Our John just loved working on airplanes and building the C-17s," Dave said. John tested the thousands of feet of electrical wiring in the planes to make sure it functioned correctly.
He received several awards from the company for his hard work and dedication to the job, Linda added. Ultimately, however, Boeing decided to quit making the C-17, so John left after a 26-year career in the aviation industry. He was an electrician for the Metro Transit Authority in Long Beach, contributing to the expansion of the metro system, at the time of his death.
Dave chose a career that related to a favorite pastime, flying. Both Dave and John earned pilot's licenses. Dave, who taught an aviation class at the high school, owns an airplane and still flies weekly.
John could identify any airplane he saw in the skies, Linda said. "He liked the freedom, I think, of being in the air." Along with flying, John loved to travel. After his death, Debra found tickets for a secret trip he had planned for the two of them, Linda said.
Dave, a retired teacher, and Linda believe more people are needed with the practical, everyday skills that technical colleges can provide. "We are not replacing our electricians and our plumbers and mechanics," Linda said. By creating the fund with the Community Foundation, Dave and Linda hope to encourage young people to consider a technical career and help them afford an education at one of Wisconsin's technical schools.
A technical education involves hands-on training, and focuses on developing a specific skill set, so students learn to identify and solve problems, he said. By helping young people obtain a technical education, Linda said, they are helping them prepare for a job and become productive in the world.
Grants support the Student Emergency Fund at CVTC.