William Franklin Carlson (Bill), of Angle Inlet, Minnesota, born on March 1, 1937, in Warroad, Minnesota to Fritz and Gunda (Uggen) Carlson, passed away at age 82 on March 25, 2019, peacefully at his home in Watertown, South Dakota.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth Lorraine (Beach) Carlson; daughters, Kari Lynn Carlson and Kelli LaRae Anderson; son-in-law, Eric Steven Anderson; grandchildren, DeLaney Grace Anderson and Avreigh Irene Anderson; along with many beloved nieces and nephews.
Professionally, Bill’s illustrious career as a wireless infrastructure trailblazer spanned over five decades, including not only the position of President and CEO of Tower Systems, Inc., but as co-founder of the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), and primary partner in Performance Development Group, LTD. During this time, Bill developed a reputation as a hard-working, straight shooter and attracted customers from all corners of the United States and across the globe, while always maintaining his Upper Midwest values of hard work and integrity. Despite his successes, Bill also possessed a gentle, considerate spirit that earned him a reputation of caring for his employees and being generous to many causes. In September of 2014, Bill was recognized on a national scale, being inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame for his contributions to the wireless industry. Bill’s induction was historic in that he became the FIRST tower contractor ever to be enshrined into the prestigious Wireless Hall of Fame by the Wireless History Foundation. Also in 2014, Bill was honored as the initial recipient of the NATE Lifetime Service Award. This prestigious award, which has been named the Bill Carlson Lifetime Service Award in his honor, is awarded annually to an individual who has made a significant and long-term contribution to the success of the NATE mission and has served the association continually for a minimum of 15 years.
Personally, Bill was bigger than life, even as a youngster. Growing up in the wilderness of the Northwest Angle on the property Fritz and Gunda homesteaded, the youngest of eight siblings, he lived a lifestyle that fostered the things he loved his entire life. He was quick witted and had a great sense of humor. He was always up for socializing, shenanigans and spur of the moment adventures.
He followed his older brothers’ (Kenny, Maynard and Norman) example by joining the U.S. Army to serve his country. This patriotism was ingrained in every fiber of his being.
He was always an avid sportsman. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and the great outdoors, nowhere more than the Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. He eventually built a dream home of his own on the exact property his parents chose all those years ago. He was also a sports enthusiast, enjoying the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings (winning seasons or not… well, more so in winning seasons…). He had a fondness for wood working and even constructed his own sawmill at The Angle.
He has long served as the patriarch, the rock, of the extended Carlson family, leading by example in thought and deed. He was a devoted husband (Bill and Lorraine were married for 58 years), father (to Kelli and Kari), and father figure and mentor to many more. But if you asked him, his favorite thing was being a grandfather. Granddaughters DeLaney and Avreigh adored their “Papa” and they were the light of his life.
Bill is preceded in death by his parents, Fritz and Gunda Carlson; four brothers, Kenny Carlson, Maynard “Swede” Carlson, Norman Carlson and Glen Carlson (infant); and three sisters, Irene Peterson, Myrtle Thompson and Beaty Frolander.
Friends and family are welcome to attend the celebration of his life on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at Helgeson Funeral Home in Roseau, MN. Visitation will begin at 11:00 a.m. with military honors by the Roseau Memorial Honor Guard and services at 12:00 noon. A lunch and reception will follow with interment at Good Shepherd Cemetery at Angle Inlet, MN.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Bill’s name to the 501(c)3 non-profit organization Tower Family Foundation.org. Donors paying by credit card should note “Bill Carlson Memorial” in the Company Field of the credit card form.