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November 17, 1954 – July 7, 2021

Colleen Carlson, 66, passed away Wednesday, July 7, 2021, after a courageous second battle with a form of rare cancer.

Colleen Amelia Carlson was the sixth of nine children, born to John and Amelia (Voit) Fisher on Nov. 17, 1954, in Anoka. She graduated from Winsted Holy Trinity High School in 1973. Colleen received her cosmetology diploma from St. Cloud School of Cosmetology in 1976 and a floriculture and greenhouse operations degree in 1980 from the University of Minnesota, Waseca.

In 1980, Colleen moved to Portland, Ore., where she was employed in greenhouse management. She loved the Pacific Northwest for its scenic beauty and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities.

Colleen held onto her love for the hometown boy and married her high school sweetheart, Joe Carlson, Oct. 9, 1982. They made their home in Portland and welcomed sons, Nicholas, in 1985, and Noah, in 1987.

After buying the family farm in Winsted, Joe and Colleen planted the first of 4,000 apple trees that would become Carlson’s Orchard. Colleen managed the orchard business for seven years from Oregon, before moving the family home to the farm in 1992. It was the perfect place to raise two boys.

Together, Colleen and Joe grew their family orchard into a bustling enterprise and regional fall favorite. In 1994, Colleen was key in expanding the operation to include a large retail space, bakery and restaurant in the farm’s remodeled 1932 dairy barn. Colleen’s talents were on full display in every aspect of the family business. Lunchtime was legendary at Carlson’s Orchard, with Colleen’s homemade focaccia sandwiches and soups, surely followed by a crisp apple turnover or slice of apple pie. The only thing sweeter than the apples at Carlson’s Orchard was the greeting, listening ear and warm smile Colleen gave to each customer.

The family orchard business allowed Colleen the life she wanted as a mother. Extra time at home meant nurturing Nick’s creativity with books, crafts and music, and cherished nights in bed with her first born, listening to him read his novels aloud. It meant fostering a love for the outdoors in Noah, watching birds and going for walks.

Colleen’s faith in God was as strong as the way she faced challenges, including two battles with cancer. If she said she was praying for you, she meant it. Her faith shaped her life and never wavered.

In recent years, she rejoiced in a growing family and the chance to love on sweet baby granddaughters, Emma and Cora. The girls lit up when “Grandma CC” was in the room.

Colleen’s crowning achievement was the 48 years with her spouse, Joe. Working together and raising a family required a deep love and respect for one another. Joe and Colleen set an example of love, marriage and true partnership for their children and many others.

Like her faith, Colleen’s love was unwavering. We will see her in the perfect snowflake, the eyes of our children and grandchildren, the morning chirp of a bird and the crisp of the perfect apple – and feel her love for eternity, on earth and in heaven.

Colleen is survived by her husband, Joe; sons, Nick (Jackie) Carlson, Rochester, and Noah (Ariana) Carlson, Walcott, N.D.; granddaughters, Emma Carlson and Cora Carlson; siblings, Mary, Bob (Teresa), Theresa (Paul), Patrick, Tony (Deb), Denise (Jerome), Dan (Deb) and Steve; and many nieces, nephews, in-laws and extended family.

She was preceded in death by her parents and an infant grandson, John Nicholas.

Memorials may be sent to:  The Nature Conservancy  or  American Cancer Society 


19 Guestbook Entries

  1. Jo Ann Moses

    Joe. I just heard about the love of you life. I am sending you my deepest sympathy and all my prayers. I am sorry I will not be able to attend her funeral as I will be on vacation. I heard stories how hard she worked in your cafe/restaurant. I know she had to give that up awhile ago but she will always be remembered for her cooking. She will be missed but never forgotten.

  2. Monte Fjosne

    I. Joe hope you remember me Monte Fjosne.So sorry to hear about your wife, my sister LuAnn said she was a very special lady. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. With the Lords help you will get through this time in your life. An old friend Monte.🙏🏻🙏🏻

  3. Joe Carlson

    You were and always will remain “my rock”. Thank you for loving me, for being there with me. Know you are forever in my heart, life together here just ended too soon.
    I’m so sorry for what you went through, but know you are in heaven watching over us.
    Your love forever,

  4. Roxy Yurek

    Joe and family. I’m so sorry to hear about Colleen’s passing. She was a great person. Prayers and hugs to you.

  5. Kathy Berghuis

    So sorry for your loss Joe. We sure enjoyed Colleen and you when we visited the orchard. Many great memories made there. We send our sympathies.

  6. melanie

    I’m heartily sorry for the loss of your spouse and companion. We have many memories coming to the orchard, and the awesome lunches we had when our kids were younger. Blessings to your family.

  7. Kelly Kruize

    Ariana & Noah, KLJ wants to extend our sympathies toward you both and your families.

  8. Irene Bender

    Mercy, grace and peace to Colleen’s family. It was always special to go to Carlson’s Orchard. The food was always good, lots of people we knew and mostly because of Colleen and Joe. All of us looked for Colleen in the kitchen with love and concern. My heart is sad. May her legacy comfort you today and the days ahead.
    Irene Bender

  9. Doug and Mary Meyer

    So sorry for your loss. Hang on tight to the beautiful memories.

  10. Fr. Stan Mader

    Joe and family and siblings, my sympathies to you. It was a life well lived. As we say in the funeral liturgy, for one connected with Christ, death means life is changed, not ended. Your relationship with her is changed, but not ended. It lives on in the family, in the trees and lands you were stewards of, and in the many friends who will support you in the coming months. I will pray for her and for you. I was a year behind her at Holy Trinity. – Fr. Stan Mader, Waconia

  11. DeAnn Mickolichek

    Joe and family I worked at the orchard back when lunches started great people a great place to work weekends. Deepest sympathy. What a wonderful person and worker Colleen was. She will be missed by many people. Prayers for all

  12. Julie and Karl Townsend

    Joe, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Sorry, we are unable to attend the service. All of your fellow apple growers send their support. Love, Julie and Karl

  13. Theresa Schmieg

    So sorry for your loss. You and your family have my deepest sympathy. Prayers. Colleen was such a beautiful lady. She will be missed by all.

  14. Raymond A Muth

    Sorry for the loss your family has suffered, my sympathy to you and your family.

  15. Willi & Marion from Freising, Germany

    Dear Joe, we deeply share your loss and sadness – knowing that Colleen will continue to give you the strength to carry on. Take good care of yourself and her legacy.

  16. Karen Saben

    Joe might have dug the razor clams at the beach in Seaside but Colleen was the master at cleaning and cooking those sumptuous clams to perfection!!!
    The Oregon gang met her before she married Joe and we all fell in love with her then and wondered how Joe was so lucky to find this special woman. Joe may have planted and tended the orchard but we all knew who cooked the thousands of apple pies and created the wonderful food that was served there with love and a knock out smile – Colleen. Her love of family and friends was returned by all who knew her. Love you Colleen, Karen and Tim

  17. Shannon& Brian Johnson

    We are saddened to hear that Colleen passed away. She was such an amazing lady, with the most beautiful smile. Colleen will be missed by so many people. Our thoughts and prayers are with you Joe, Nick and Noah during this difficult time.

  18. Allen & Wendy Benusa

    So sorry to hear that Colleen passed away. She was a ray of sunshine on the orchard and in everyone’s lives.

  19. Becky Holm

    I am so saddened to hear of Colleen’s passing. I remember her to be such a lovely person. I am sure you all miss her terribly. I will pray for you as you grieve and navigate life without her. Your orchard is her legacy and a memory of her I am sure. At the same time, it must be very hard to be there as the memories must be bittersweet. I hope you feel God’s love as you miss her and remember such a beautiful person. My deepest sympathies.


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