Craftsman finds his niche in paintingDale Sheldon describes himself as a farmer by birth, a painter by trade and a musician at heart. That’s only if you can convince him to talk about himself.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Dale Sheldon describes himself as a farmer by birth, a painter by trade and a musician at heart. That’s only if you can convince him to talk about himself.
“I’m a hard bird to interview,” Sheldon warned. “I don’t like to talk about myself. I guess I just don’t like a lot of focus and attention.”
But with a little cajoling, he will share a few anecdotes about his life.
A lifetime Alexandrian, Sheldon’s ties to the area are strong. His mother grew up near Nelson and he was raised on a farm near Alexandria.
After Sheldon graduated from Central High School in 1947, he got a job working for Emil T. Peterson at Peterson’s Paint Shop.
“He’s the reason I became a painter,” Sheldon said of his eventual career choice. “I often tend to give him more credit than I give myself. He was a wonderful man and an excellent teacher.”
For a couple years, Sheldon attended the University of Minnesota, where he majored in music. But the draft interrupted his studies and he spent two years in the Army.
When he came back to Alexandria, he resumed his career with Peterson, with the understanding that he would eventually buy the business. When he did, he renamed it Sheldon Paint Shop.
“I guess I’m kind of a hands-on person. I kind of fell in to my niche,” he said. “I think that as time went on, I was much happier that I had become a painter than to have become a music teacher. It was a better fit.”
Sheldon never regretted his career as a painter. He enjoyed both the personal feel of a paintbrush in his hand, the satisfaction of making something old look new, and especially the people he met and worked for.
“The product was more important than the profit, which runs counter to the American philosophy of achieving status and wealth,” he reminisced about how he ran his business. “I achieved my own success and was very happy.”
Throughout his rewarding 50-year career, he never lost touch with what was in his heart – music. Sheldon was involved with the Alexandria Area Arts Association for several years and participated in 10 musical productions, along with his wife, Virginia. The Sheldons sang in their church choir for “many years” and sang solos and duets at “many funerals.”
He also directed a choir at his church and played the bassoon in a civic orchestra in Alexandria for two years.
“I did music on a level that I could handle and enjoy and did all right with it,” he said. “I was always in touch with music one way or another.”
While he was a painter by trade and a musician at heart, Sheldon never forgot his roots. To this day he lives on the same farm his parents purchased when he was in high school. And he still has horses, like his parents before him.
“I have more horse stories than I have paint stories,” he said with a grin, insisting in his modest way that none of them are too exciting. “Horses have always been a part of my life. My dad farmed with horses and I grew up with them.”
Although he no longer trains horses, he still has two, along with a buggy and a “cutter,” a small one-horse sleigh.
If you ask Sheldon if he has any regrets about his life and the choices he made between his birthright, his trade and his heart, in typical fashion he will quietly laugh and admit, “Probably, but I wouldn’t tell you what they were.”