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Hillsboro veteran, who was Army artist, still creating at 93

You never know what gem you might find in our small towns that dot our prairies. One can be found in Hillsboro, North Dakota, where a 93-year-old Army veteran is still on the job, doing what he did while he served his country 70 years ago.

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John Pederson painting at his senior living apartment in Hillsboro.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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HILLSBORO, N.D. — In a cozy senior living apartment, John Pederson is back at it. Palettes, paints and brushes are everywhere.
At 93, painting has been his entire life.

"Usually, I have eight or nine paintings going at the same time," Pederson said.

It was during the Korean War that Pederson, who already had a knack for art, was drafted to become an artist for the U.S. Army.

"During the Cold War," Pederson said. "I did a lot of maps, paintings of the missiles."

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John Pederson used his skills as an artist while serving in the U.S. Army.
Contributed / John Pederson

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Those maps and missiles would become the groundwork for a career in art. First as a commercial artist, but more important, painting things he loves most: planes.

"They're very well designed, very interesting, and then the history of them is really good," Pederson said.

His work is on display right now as a special exhibit at the Traill County Museum. A reminder, he's 93.

"It's my work, and I love it," Pederson said.

Not just planes, but he has also painted incredible Abe Lincoln works of art. A fan of Norman Rockwell, one of his favorite stories is of him sitting down for an afternoon with Rockwell and the two talking about their love of painting.

"I was interested in his work, of course," Pederson said.

Pederson recently had a stroke. Doctors called the family together. They thought that was it, but John had other ideas. He had more to do.

"If you love your work, you can't do anything else," Pederson said.

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After the stroke, he taught himself to paint and golf again. His two favorite parts of life.

"Your mind has to be there to put things together. It took a few years to believe I could paint again, but I am getting better," he said.

Pederson has never driven car, but you will find him at the Goose River Golf Club on Wednesdays with his brother Neil Pederson. We had to wrap up our interview early, as Pederson had a tee time scheduled.

You can see some of Pederson's work on display in Hillsboro at the Plummer House Traill County Museum.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

Contact Email: kwallevand@wday.com
Phone Number: (701) 241-5317
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