Apr 26, 2023
Howard Sivertson (1930
Artist and author Howard Arthur "Bud" Sivertson was born into an Isle Royale
Artist and author Howard Arthur "Bud" Sivertson was born into an Isle Royale commercial fishing family and spent his summers on the island and his winters attending school in Duluth.
He was born in the city on May 31, 1930, to Arthur and Myrtle Sivertson and spent most of his life in this region. Known as Bud or Buddy to his friends and family, he worked on the Lake fishing with his father, Arthur, and his uncle, Stanley, from a very early age. But being from a fishing family did not make him immune to sea sickness, and so the fishing life would not be his future.
As luck would have it, he also inherited the heart of a storyteller and the talents of an artist. Howard graduated from Denfeld High School in Duluth, then from Minneapolis School of Art (now Minneapolis College of Art and Design); served in the U.S. Navy stationed in Hawaii, and also attended the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Howard began telling the story of his Isle Royale experiences on his first day of kindergarten when he discovered that he couldn't relate to the other children's stories. The teacher asked them all to share their experiences from their summer, so Buddy went to the blackboard to draw the scenes of his life at Isle Royale. He filled the wrap-around blackboard with illustrations representing all the details of commercial fishing, the people, the animals, etc. that he had witnessed. Thus began Howard's favorite way to communicate: through art and illustration.
He married Doris Lindbeck in 1952 and shortly afterwards entered the Navy, stationed in Honolulu. As he was standing in line to receive his orders, a higher-ranking person walked down the line with a T-square in search of someone who knew what it was. Howard did, thanks to his art and design training, and therefore he became an artist for the Navy, doing cartoons, various graphics and painting portraits of high-ranking officers. Howard and Doris had their first child, Jan, in 1953 in Hawaii. They returned to Duluth where Jeff was born in 1956 and Liz in 1959. Howard supported the family by doing commercial art, sometimes for an agency, and sometimes freelance.
In 1971, Howard and Doris divorced, and Howard retreated to a primitive one-room cabin in the woods in Brimson, Minn., where he could focus essentially on his painting. He emerged after three years, took a long solo boundary waters canoe trip, and as he came out of the woods, took an interest in the town of Grand Marais. He bought a house there and started Sivertson Gallery with his daughter Jan. Howard quickly realized he just wanted to paint, and Jan decided she wanted to run the business. They moved the business downtown and began gathering artists from around the region, including daughter Liz Sivertson. Sivertson Gallery is still thriving 43 years later and with a companion gallery, Siiviis, in Duluth.
Howard, Doris and their young children spent every summer at the family homestead on Washington Island on Isle Royale. This was the fishing homestead of Howard's grandparents, Severin and T’Dora Sivertson, when they came from Norway in the early 1890s. Their sons and son-in-law – Howard's father Art Sivertson, Uncle Stanley Sivertson, Uncle Tom Eckel (Bertha Sivertson) and their families – fished there as well. Howard's Aunt Myrtle Sivertson, her husband Milford Johnson, and their family fished at a different location, Crystal Cove, on the northeastern end of Isle Royale. Howard's son, Jeff, continues to maintain the family legacy by restoring fish houses, wooden fishing boats, docks, etc. as a volunteer in the park for Isle Royale National Park.
Howard began his first collection of stories and artwork with Once Upon an Isle in the early '80s, which was published into a book. He met Janice Elaine Schmidt at the Grand Marais Art Colony, and they married in 1983. Howard went on to paint the history and tell the stories of the region. Many scenes were recreations from Howard's imagination and vast experience on Isle Royale and his many canoe trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with his lifelong best pal, Earl Seymour. His dear friend Tim Cochrane helped him with many of the historical details, and the paintings of these places are now considered history.
Howard completed several series (paintings and writings): Once Upon an Isle; The Illustrated Voyageur; Tales of the Old North Shore; Schooners, Skiffs and Steamships; and Driftwood.
Howard lived a full and loved life and died on Jan. 4, 2023, at the Silver Bay Veterans Home.
He is survived by his wife Elaine Schmidt Sivertson of 39 years, Grand Marais, and his children Jan Sivertson, Grand Marais; Jeff Sivertson (Sue), Duluth; and Liz Sivertson, Grand Marais; his grandchildren Chris Sivertson (Ashley), Grand Marais and Anne Sivertson, Superior; step-grandchildren Clay Gruber (Kia), Grand Marais; and Lily Gruber-Schulz, Thunder Bay; great-grandchildren Sam and Steve Sivertson, Grand Marais; and step-great-grandchild, Louie Gruber, Grand Marais. Preceded him in death were his first wife, Doris Sivertson (mother of Jan, Jeff and Liz), his parents Arthur and Myrtle Sivertson, his sister and brother-in-law, Betty and Enar Strom, and his nephew, Todd Strom.