Alfred Arthur Warner, Jr., who served as president of the Morrison County Historical Society for 47 of the last 50 years, passed away suddenly during emergency heart-related surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, MN, on August 16, 2015. He was better known as “Art” by family, friends, and acquaintences.
Art and his wife Jan first became involved with the Morrison County Historical Society in 1962, when they attended a meeting meant to revitalize the organization, which had slumped into inactivity following the death of its curator and board secretary Alexander Huddleston. Art and Jan immersed themselves almost immediately in the daily activities of the organization, with Art first becoming president in 1965. His role as MCHS president was an adjunct to his work in child support enforcement with Morrison County Social Services. While Art was occupied with the duties of his board position and job, Jan took on curatorial and management functions for MCHS, eventually becoming the organization’s executive director.
It is no accident that, in discussing Art’s long-term involvement with MCHS, Jan is mentioned in the next breath and vice versa. The two were inseparable and served as a powerhouse team that brought professionalism, thoughtful analysis, and progressive ideas to MCHS and the larger community.
Art will be missed for his soft-spoken manner, constant low whistling (to mask his tinnitus), ability to “talk” to cardinals, and his love of gadgets, jazz, chocolate, coffee, and spreadsheets, among many other things. His understated and steadfast service to MCHS over the past 50+ years provided a reassuring sense of stability to the organization.
Art – Bits & Pieces
When Mary asked if I had any pictures of Art that she could use with a post on the museum’s website announcing his death on 16 August 2015, I knew I had some but did not realize they were almost all partial views – Art from behind, Art from the side, Art’s legs on a ladder as he checks something in the attic, part of Art’s hand as he helps Rebecca Ellis from Questions & Solutions Engineering examine the inner workings of the furnace, Art’s hand holding a piece of bark chewed off a tree by a beaver. The photos describe Art even though they only show bits and pieces. Put together, they form the mosaic of a multi-faceted man.
Art was what I would call a true historian. His deep love and respect for the past melded seamlessly with a keen interest in the future and an almost palpable need to help shape that future into something that was good for everyone. One of the last things Art and I talked about was the future of education in our respective home communities – his being Little Falls and mine St. Cloud. Art asked me how things were going with the St. Cloud school district’s decision to pursue replacing Tech High School, one of two public high schools in the city. Despite repeated requests, the school district’s lack of interest in providing the information needed to make an informed and unbiased decision on whether to renovate or replace the school had been endlessly frustrating and Art, with whom I shared a work space, was fully aware of it. Art and his wife, Jan, then MCHS executive director, had both participated in the Little Falls school district’s meetings regarding renovation and remodeling and had experienced their own frustrations. Their participation reflects a deep and longstanding concern about the future of education and the community. Art and Jan no longer had children or grandchildren in the K-12 school system but they were willing to commit the time and effort needed to be part of the process. Art’s participation included pointing out the relatively innovative possibility of brick and mortar schools being a thing of the past in the not so distant future. Art was not known for saying much at public meetings or in large groups but when he did, it was worth listening.
Art was an uncommon man. He will be missed.
Ann Marie Johnson
Curator of Collections
These articles originally appeared in the MCHS Newsletter, Volume 28, Number 3, 2015.