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Orville M. Running
(September 19, 1910 - February 6, 2012)

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Orville M. Running

Orville Magnus Running, 101, of Decorah, Iowa, died Monday, February 6, 2012 at Aase Haugen Nursing Home in Decorah. Husband and father, pastor, teacher, artist, he understood all of his life as service to God and to God's people.

Funeral Services will be held at 11:00 A.M. Saturday, February 11, 2012 at Decorah Lutheran Church with Pastor Dave Sorenson officiating. Burial will be in Lutheran Cemetery in the spring.

Visitation will be from 4:00-7:00 P.M. Friday, February 10 at Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah and on Saturday after 10:00 A.M. at the church, one hour before services.

Born September 19, 1910, in Veblen, South Dakota, he was the first of five sons of Julia Sophia Olson, a musician and teacher, and Alfred Sigvart Running, a Lutheran pastor.

Because his father was called to serve parishes in various places, Orville spent his childhood in Veblen, South Dakota, in the Montana towns of Big Sandy and Havre, in Sandpoint, Idaho, and in Zumbrota, Minnesota, where he graduated from High School in 1927. He then enrolled at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota

Though the college offered no studio art courses, he sought to cultivate his artistic talents—drawing charts for science instructors, backdrops for the annual Christmas concert, covers for the student literary magazine, and an interesting map of Northfield, wry commentary included.

In 1931, Running enrolled at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was ordained a minister of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America on July 8, 1934—the same day that he married Marjorie Lorraine Olney of Minneapolis, also a St. Olaf graduate. They became the parents of four children—Marit, George, Marjorie, and Kristi.

Running accepted a call to Bethlehem Lutheran in Tacoma, Washington, where he served as pastor from 1934–40, then to Christ Lutheran in Chicago, where he served from 1940–46, ministering not only to his congregation, but to the servicemen temporarily stationed in Chicago. During that time he was also able to pursue artistic training, taking evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1946, Running was hired to head the young art department at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. In 1950 he completed requirements for the Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Over the next four decades—and in accord with his contract to "instruct in art and religious education"—he nurtured art and faith in equal measure. Under his guidance as department head, the college steadily expanded its art curriculum. Running also taught two courses in the Bible department and delivered frequent chapel talks. He was often called on to preach at nearby congregations.

Running served as a role model in the truest sense of the word for generations of Luther students. While encouraging individuality, Pastor Running, as he was addressed by many on the Luther campus, imparted to his students the importance of fundamentals, hard work, and attention to detail. He followed those same tenets in his own work, found today both on campus and well beyond.

While he took great pleasure in painting, drawing, preparing and sometimes constructing liturgical furnishings for Luther and area churches, it is for his woodcuts that he is best known. He saw color and design in nature in a distinctive way. Having lived much of his childhood on the prairie, he took special delight in the forms and colors of the trees, bluffs, and waters of Decorah. He also appreciated the elegant works of engineers and builders—quarries, bridges, boats, docks.

In 1976 he stepped down as head of the Luther art department but for the next decade, continued to teach courses in printmaking.

In 1987 Running was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts from St. Olaf College.

In 1990, 21 years after the death of his first wife, Marjorie, he married Mildred Lund, a native of Thor, Iowa. She died September 27, 1999.

Orville is survived by his three daughters: Marit (Franklin) Pudas of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Marjorie (George) Wharton of Decorah, and Kristi (John) Carlson of Forest City, Iowa; his son, George (Kaye) Running of Dubuque, Iowa; eight grandchildren: Jonathan and Joseph Pudas, Nathan and Kristi Running, Philip and Julia Wharton, Timothy Carlson and Sarah Carlson Haveman; seven great-grandchildren; two brothers: Joseph Running of Seattle, WA and Paul Running of Kalamazoo, MI.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Julia and Alfred Running; two brothers, Arnold Running and Cyrus Running; his first wife, Marjorie, and his second wife, Mildred.

Memorials may be given to Luther College, Decorah Lutheran Church (marked for hunger relief), or Aase Haugen Home.


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