Editor's note: Each week reporter Matthew Guerry shares the life stories of residents of Minnesota or the Dakotas who have died recently. Maybe you don't know them, but their stories are worth knowing. If you have a suggestion for someone to be featured, email mguerry@forumcomm.com or call 651-321-4314.

Rarely do people choose nicknames for themselves that stick. Carol “Rusty” Morgan was, in that regard, an exception.

She chose that sobriquet on account of her red hair, which she thought of as "her trademark," Morgan's daughter, Karen Rauenhorst, said.

It wasn’t her only one: Morgan was rarely seen without her wide-brimmed cowboy hat, another identifier she picked out on her own.

"She never went anywhere without that hat," Rauenhorst said in a recent interview.

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She also was a lifelong and mostly self-taught artist: Morgan's oil paintings ranged from still life works to depictions of natural landscapes and flowers. In life, Morgan shared her love for art by teaching classes on it and gifting her works.

Morgan died Friday, Feb. 19, of heart failure at Carris Health Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar, Minn. She was 72.

Morgan was born Nov. 21, 1948, in Pierre, S.D., to Lyle and Caroline Morgan. She took to art early, in grade school, according to Rauenhorst, and would keep at it all her life.


After several moves throughout the state, her parents settled the family in Rapid City, S.D., where Morgan graduated from high school in 1967. It was in Rapid City she met Raymond Rauenhorst, who was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base. The two were wed in 1969.

They later moved to Cheyenne, Wyo., where their son, Michael, was born. After Raymond left the Air Force, the family moved to his hometown of Olivia, Minn.

Olivia was where Morgan took her first art lessons, Karen Rauenhorst said, and where her mother would later teach art classes herself. Art instruction would remain a passion of hers, as she taught art classes at her granddaughter's elementary school and at church.

Morgan and Rauenhorst divorced in 1984, at which point she moved to Wheatland, Wyo., where her parents had moved. She and her parents would later move to California to be closer to her siblings, who were living near Los Angeles.

Karen and Michael Rauenhorst lived mostly with their father but would spend a month or so at a time with their mother out west, particularly in the summer.

"We loved going to California," Karen said. "She’d save up for a year, and she took us to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm and we got to go to the ocean a couple times."

A painting of Carol "Rusty" Morgan's. Submitted photo.
A painting of Carol "Rusty" Morgan's. Submitted photo.

In 2003, after suffering a workplace injury that would cause lasting difficulties, Morgan moved to Willmar, where Karen and her family live. She continued to paint in Willmar, however, passing her love for art on to granddaughter Nicole Whitcomb. Several works by Morgan hang in a health clinic in town.

A member of the Church of the Nazarene in Willmar, Morgan is remembered as jovial person who prayed for and thought often of others. Like her hat, she was also known for her affinity for orange Tic Tac mints and 7 Up.

Shortly before her death, Morgan completed what would be her final work of art: An oil painting depicting a vase of flowers sitting on a table, a single red rose laying beside it.

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