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Sgt Donald L. Carlson
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Birth: Mar. 5, 1930
Death: Feb. 9, 2012

Former Glenview resident Donald L. Carlson, 81, patriarch of a prominent Chicago film family, passed away Feb. 9.

Mr. Carlson retired to live in Grayslake in 2003, where he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2005.

With his wife of nearly 55 years, Dru, Mr. Carlson had a profound influence on the local and national film community during his tenure as a director at Chicago's Wilding Studios.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Carlson and his four children often worked together on hundreds of films, television shows and commercials for Wilding's corporate and industry clients.

"We have all worked with many famous directors and when people ask us who's the best director we ever worked with, we all say, ‘My dad,'" Mary said.

"His crews always loved him. They all worked hard because he really knew how to run a set, but they knew for the most part they'd be home by cocktail hour. That's a rarity in the film industry."

Born in St. Joseph, Mo., March 5, 1930, Mr. Carlson joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1950, serving as a sergeant in the 1st Marine Division in Korea.

Afterward, he moved to Chicago and worked at Wilding Studios, which produced corporate films. His cousin, Norm Wilding, owned the company, and Wilding Studios occupied the most historic film building in Chicago, the former Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. This storied Chicago film studio produced 1910s-era movies with top stars Charlie Chaplin, Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson.

Mr. Carlson started out in the Wilding film laboratory and, among the final group of professionals trained in the old studio system, he worked his way up.

In 1957, he married Dru Smith, a fellow filmmaker.

Shortly after the 1958 birth of their oldest child, Don, the Carlsons moved to Glenview, where they lived for more than 45 years. Their community involvement included close ties to the Glenview Theatre Guild, for which Mr. Carlson created scenery and provided other creative support as his wife performed on stage.

In an award-winning film career that spanned nearly 40 years, his biggest clients included Ford Motor Co. and Purina.

He directed numerous luminaries, including automotive executives Lee Iacocca, Henry Ford II and William Clay Ford Sr.

Known for his sense of humor, Mr. Carlson wrote Roll ‘Em! Wait a Minute, a hilarious and as-yet unpublished memoir of his experiences in the industry.

When he retired in 1990, Mr. Carlson pursued and often merged his passions for painting and sailing.

"He was always an artist, which helped him draw story boards for the films. He studied painting and drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago," said Mary, a 1973 graduate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview.

As the captain of a few Catalina boats over the years, he often sailed with his family and many good friends out of San Diego Harbor, Chicago's Burnham Harbor and Punta Gorda, Fla.

A talented oil painter, he captured many of the places he visited with his family, such as Chicago, Europe, New Zealand and Africa.

For many years starting in 1998, Mr. Carlson and his wife volunteered to serve area seniors with hot lunches as part of the Catholic Charities Meals on Wheels.

"My wife got me into it," said Mr. Carlson in a 2001 article in the Glenview Announcements.

"We both do it. I'm the driver and she delivers."

"We enjoy it very much," Dru said.

"Many of these seniors are homebound and can't get out. There's this little Italian man on Milwaukee Avenue who's very appreciative and sends us little notes of thanks. It's very satisfying."

Mr. Carlson is survived by his wife, Dru Carlson, sons Don (Nan) and Rob (Makiko), and daughters Mary and DruAnn Carlson, as well as grandchildren Donny, Hannah and Cathy Carlson, Melissa (Josh) Monroe and their children, Nathan and Ryan.

Visitation was Tuesday at Strang Funeral Chapel & Crematorium, 410 E. Belvidere Road, Grayslake.

The funeral Mass was Wednesday at St. Paul the Apostle, 6401 Gages Lake Road, Gurnee. Interment followed at Ascension Cemetery, Libertyville.

Ascension Catholic Cemetery
Lake County
Illinois, USA
Created by: Ken Nagel
Record added: Jan 23, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 104062666
Sgt Donald L. Carlson
Added by: Ken Nagel
Sgt Donald L. Carlson
Added by: Ken Nagel
Sgt Donald L. Carlson
Added by: Ken Nagel
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- Jeanne Nagel
 Added: Jan. 23, 2013

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