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Remembering the dead

The new tiles show the details of service by World War I veterans Oscar Nicholson and Albert Sellgren. Jana Peterson/ jpeterson@pinejournal.com1 / 6
A flag flies next to Oscar Nicholson’s grave at Hillside Cemetery in Carlton. Nicholson died in France during World War I, as did another man from Carlton, Albert Sellgren, whose gravesite sits a short distance away (in the background). Both men died in action 100 years ago. Jana Peterson/ 2 / 6
Albert Sellgren was 26 years old when he was killed. Jana Peterson/ jpeterson@pinejournal.com3 / 6
Members of the Carlton Honor Guard stand ready during the ceremony at Hillside Cemetery in Carlton on Monday. Robert Bureau/Contributed photo4 / 6
Members of the Cloquet Combined Honor Guard raise the flag during Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony. Veterans, their families and others gathered at Cloquet’s Veterans Park for music, speeches and ceremonies to honor the dead. Jana Peterson/ jpeterson@pinejournal.com5 / 6
A flag flies next to the grave of World War II veteran Arnold Milton Luukkonen at Hillcrest Cemetery in Cloquet. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com6 / 6

Oscar Nicholson and Albert Sellgren remain close to each other in death, just as Carlton's two native sons before their lives were cut short a hundred years ago.

Both men grew up in Carlton, and both died in France during World War I. After being buried in France in 1918, their bodies were sent home to be buried in 1921.

Nicholson lies in a family plot in the oldest part of Hillside Cemetery in Carlton, about 20 feet down the hillside from Sellgren's grave.

Sellgren's still shiny granite tombstone declares him a "World War Vet" — because who could have guessed there would be a second world war?

The words etched across the bottom of the Army veteran's marker, "Killed in action," are only partly visible as the grass has encroached on the grave over the years.

Not far away, Nicholson's white marble tombstone is mottled and pockmarked by weather and the words are fading away after nearly a century.

Both graves were marked with U.S. flags on Memorial Day. Although they lay on the other side of the hill from the official ceremonies that morning, the two men were not forgotten.

Rather, they took center stage at Nicholson-Sellgren VFW Post 2962, where members unveiled a new display in memory of the two long-ago veterans for whom their post is named.

After a short speech, Post Commander Dave Swenson and members of the Carlton Honor Guard unveiled the new memorial arrangement, which includes photos of both men, along with ceiling tiles mounted on the wall and painted with the details of their service.

"On this day of remembrance for our fallen comrades and all the comrades who have served and are serving now, we at Post 2962 and our Auxiliary dedicate this memorial to the two brave men, Oscar Nicholson and Albert Sellgren," Swenson said.

While the display for the WW I veterans sits on a back wall, dozens of other painted tiles march across the ceiling inside the downtown Carlton building, each one bearing the name of a veteran and the details of his or her years of service, along with official stickers displaying branch of service and/or medals received.

Carlton Auxiliary President Linda Kaehler explained that people can buy a ceiling tile at the Carlton VFW to honor a veteran, living or dead. She said the members decided it was time to honor the two WW I veterans, who likely don't have family still living in the area to do it themselves.

According to a story about Oscar Nicholson written by Carlton County Historical Society

Director Rachael Martin, Nicholson was 30 years old when he died and had been described as athletic and "one of the kindest-natured, best-behaved, most gentlemanly of Carlton boys."

Martin wrote that Nicholson enlisted in the Marines. He died on first day of the Soissons offensive in July 1918, when his section was ordered to go "over the top" and charge the enemy. A shell burst over him, and together with two other men, he was killed instantly. A splinter of the shell struck Oscar on top and in front of the left shoulder and went on downward through the heart.

According to a newspaper story, a companion said that Oscar threw his hands straight up and cried, "God in heaven, help me! I am dying!" Then he died, to become one of the military dead who are honored each year on Memorial Day.

Hillside Cemetery was the eighth stop on a long trip Monday for the Carlton Honor Guard, which began its tour of cemeteries at 7:45 a.m. at Eagle Lake, before making stops in Cromwell, Sandy Lake, Elim Lutheran, Oak Lake, Nickerson, Wrenshall and Carlton.

Likewise, the Cloquet Combined Honor Guard made a total of 10 stops Monday, finishing their morning at Cloquet's Veterans Park for a longer ceremony at 11:30 a.m. that included music by the Cloquet Community Band and a speech by Command Sgt. Major Derk Bronson.

Cloquet Combined Honor Guard Capt. Rich Chasse estimated 100 people attended the service at Veterans Park. Members of the Fond du Lac Honor Guard also finished their morning of ceremonies at Veterans Park.