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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Scott Cleland, 1951-2011

Scott James Cleland
March 19, 1951 – February 8, 2011

My brother Scott died of lymphoma. His husband showed tremendous care for Scott over the years and particularly at the end. As a medical professional, he saw to it that Scott had the best possible medical care. They traveled the world together, created and admired art, and recorded for posterity “The Alphabet Adventure of Scott Cleland.” It was Scott’s life’s work, and combined his passions of acting, history, art, and calligraphy.

Scott acted in many high school plays, including a wonderfully zany character in “The Fantastiks.” He brought down the house as Big Daddy in “Sweet Charity” – the only play all three of my older siblings were in together. Scott was the oldest of the five siblings. Ten years younger, I was the fourth, and was impressed and inspired by his performances and awards.

He went on to get a theater degree from the University of Minnesota. He performed at Stagecoach and Peppermint Tent, and traveled to Washington, D.C. to perform “365 Days,” a play about the Vietnam War. He was an extra in the original movie “Heartbreak Kid” and had a speaking role, saying, “Hi Kelly” to Cybill Shepherd. I was actually an extra for a play in one of Scott’s acting classes: I played a deceased child and they dragged me in on a sheet.

Scott loved the Renaissance Festival, and it was there that he learned calligraphy. He was always making banners, posters, etc. for us, and he taught us the basics, as he did for his many students over the years. He collected goose feathers to be used as quills, assisting in the production of the St. John’s Bible, and met in association with the calligrapher to the Queen of England.

Scott did sculpting as well as two-dimensional art, and had other hobbies such as beekeeping and exotic pet pheasants. One year they hosted us for Christmas and he scattered corn in their wooded back yard, attracting exactly nine deer, the same number used to pull Santa’s sleigh.

On Christmas Eve growing up we would sing Christmas carols, and it was by listening to Scott that I learned how to harmonize. Scott also had a quick wit and great sense of humor. If I manage to say something funny there’s a good chance it’s thanks to my brothers.

He was great with the nieces, doing spontaneous things like “foot claps” and “knee slaps.” He would give my son rides to family dinner, saving me a 72-mile round trip.

Scott knew architecture. He would point at a building and explain the “egg and dart” pattern there. When I was depressed in 1990, he took me to the museum, which helped me to eventually snap out of it. In 2004, he took Mom to London, where they toured royal palaces, Bath, and Stonehenge.

Scott also inspired me politically. During his college years, I remember him telling us about a protest on campus with teargas and how he had to run between two buildings. Years later, he told a story about how he was in another city, marching in one of the first Gay Pride parades, somebody giving him a banner to hold, being on national TV, and worrying about it, because it was before he came out in 1982. As an activist, I would sometimes march in our Minneapolis GLBT Pride parade, and I ran into Scott a couple times while I was there, and he appreciated my involvement.

With Scott, there is so much, I’m sure I’m leaving out something important. This is just what comes to mind today. Rest in Peace, dear brother. We love you.


At Wed Feb 09, 07:56:00 PM CST, Blogger Ann Pritchard said...

Hi Tom,
I am so sorry to hear of Scott's passing. You and family are in my prayers.

M. Ann Machen Pritchard, Author/Illustrator/Songwriter

At Thu Feb 10, 12:44:00 AM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
Just want to let you know I got the news about Scott's passing, and you're all in my heart these days. Scott was a blessing - such an insiring person.
George Helmke

At Thu Feb 10, 09:42:00 AM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Thank you Ann and cousin George.

At Sun Feb 13, 07:07:00 AM CST, Blogger George Patrin said...

Again, Tom, my condolences and heartfelt sorrow that Scott's time came too soon for all of us. Thanks for your words of love from a brother. Blessings and peace to you and all the Cleland family.
Dr. George

At Sun Feb 13, 08:58:00 AM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Thank you George.

At Sun Feb 13, 05:42:00 PM CST, Blogger brucekathymartin said...

Tom - I was so sorry to read about Scott's passing. I just loved him - and even though I hadn't seen him in a while- I have thought of him often - and I believe that I and our world is better because he was in it. Blessings to you and all your family. An old friend, Kathy Leines Martin

At Mon Feb 14, 09:07:00 PM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom
I am one of Scott's calligrapher friends. My heart goes out to you and your family. I have such good memories of Scott, especially the last time I saw him in Naperville, IL. I loved hearing about his teaching and how he taught - he was so excited to share with others. For some reason, we had a special connection this time - maybe it was because he had heard I went thru treatment for ovarian cancer and recognized a kindred spirit. It didn't matter to me what it specifically was - it just was very loving and felt good. I'll miss him very much. Scott left us all way too soon.
My thoughts are with you and your family, Georgia Deaver

At Tue Feb 15, 09:07:00 AM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom, my prayers are with Monte and with your family. I am also one of Scott's calligraphy friends. I first met Scott years ago when he was putting together his special play about the history of letters. He was so animated and enthusiastic. Over the years I got to see Scott perform that play a few times, each time learning something myself- and laughing so hard at his effervescent delivery. He was such a joy to be around. He was a very bright spot in every calligraphy conference he attended. I shall miss Scott so much. Harvest Crittenden

At Tue Feb 15, 01:13:00 PM CST, Blogger Bonnie said...

I LOVED Scott's presentation at St. John 's! I will think of him always as I share the precious cunieform tablets with which he entrusted me for my teaching. His passion and skill made his dramatic presentation memorable and inspiring. I am the better for my life's brief intersection with his and share his family's grief.

At Tue Feb 15, 02:21:00 PM CST, Anonymous Cheryl Jacobsen said...

Hi Tom, I brought Scott to Iowa a few years ago after hearing such wonderful things about him from people who attended the calligraphy conferences. He performed at my daughter's school and kept ALL the kids from the special needs pre-K class to the soon to be teen sixth graders to college grad students in total rapt attention for 45 minutes. He was truly amazing, but more than that he was obviously a radiantly good person and a wonderful friend. I'm so sorry I'll never get to talk to him again. I'm sending you love and condolences and hope you will also share them with Monte. Cheryl Jacobsen

At Tue Feb 15, 07:52:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Will do. Thank you all.

At Tue Feb 15, 08:34:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Memorial donations can be sent to the Minnesota Aids Project. At the bottom of the page, gifts can be designated in memory of Scott.

At Tue Feb 15, 08:51:00 PM CST, Blogger Harvest Moon by Hand said...


I am deeply saddened to have read about Scott's passing. He shared his bookmaking and calligraphy skills with children at Harvest Moon Community Farm's Create & Cultivate Art Camp many years ago (in the late 1990s and early 2000s).

He brought so much joy and laughter to hundreds of children through his art workshops.

He made incredibly beautiful banners - all done in calligraphy - that were hung from the barn; and welcomed parents, children, and guests to the art show on the last day of camp.

Scott made a lasting and memorable impact on so many children's lives, Tom.

I am honored to have been able to have had the opportunity to meet such a creative, funny, and gentle man.


At Tue Feb 15, 10:03:00 PM CST, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Dear Tom, Monte, and the rest of the family,

I'm so very sorry to hear of Scott's passing. I knew him some years back now, through his teaching artistry with Young Audiences, where I formerly was artistic director. As you already know, Scott was a remarkable, remarkable, truly wonderful man, who did the best that can be asked of us in our lives, to simply make life better for those he knew.

All the best,
Elizabeth P. Barnes

At Wed Feb 16, 02:16:00 PM CST, Blogger marcia said...

Dear Tom:

I'm another one of Scott's many calligraphy friends and fans. We first met when i directed the callig conference in 2000. we talked on the phone several times because he was late getting his registration info to me and he was so funny and apologetic and charming, I couldn't be mad. I also couldn't wait to meet him. On one of the first days, he rode up to me on his bike, introduced himself and we've been dear friends ever since. I treasure the times we spent together and feel blessed to have known him. My heart goes out to you and your family and to Monte. I'm sure that part of who Scott was came from your loving family.
marcia friedman

At Thu Feb 17, 09:36:00 AM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am a calligrapher admirer of what Scott has achieved, knowing him only through the calligraphy conferences where he was such a joyful presence. I have never met another teacher of lettering who could so inspire children's interest and get them excited about the history of the alphabet and writing. Many will want to own his videos to show their own students and keep his legacy and wonderful spirit alive. What a blessing they were made. He will be so sorely missed and thought about by so many, worldwide, and I hope that knowledge will be of some comfort to your family and Monte in the coming sad days.

With loving condolences
Sheila Waters

At Fri Feb 18, 08:30:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Thank you all for your kind words.

At Fri Mar 04, 07:03:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Some more thoughts about Scott, for tomorrow's memorial service...

For Connie’s wedding in 1981, Scott, Bruce and I sang in three-part harmony. The songs were “Love Can Make You Happy” by Mercy and “Longer” by Dan Fogelberg.

For Christmas in 1980, Scott gave me a framed, fictional certificate from “The Minnesota Quality of Life Council” thanking me for my “virtuous and untiring efforts” on their behalf. It was signed by Scott Cleland, Clelland Card, Hermione Gingold, Lily Tomlin, Orson Wells, and Grover Cleveland.

One year he gave me a book of newspaper front pages, and on the inside front he wrote, “To Tom Cleland, who will both write headlines and make them.” The first part of that prophecy came true through my work on the school paper and later through blogging. The second part was realized more or less indirectly as a result of my causes, activities, and letters to the editor. I’ve been in the news a few times, including last year when I spoke at a hearing.

One particularly rough year for Scott economically, he gave each of us siblings painted rocks. On the back of each was a letter, and together they spelled, “NOEL”.

One year, when I was rather young, maybe 13 or so, he gave me a book titled, “Winning Chess for Beginners,” only throughout the book he taped in photos of naked women. On the inside he wrote, “Hope you enjoy your book, ‘Winning Chests for Beginners.’” Years later I was finally able to concentrate on the content of the actual book, and it improved my endgame significantly.

I hasten to add that Scott was the first man I know to describe himself as a feminist. One time we were listening to the song, “Feel Like Making Love” by Bad Company, and he said instead of “making love to you” it should be “making love with you.”

Getting back to the protest I mentioned earlier, it was Scott who first taught me what an “agent provocateur” was. He gave me an alternative perspective on the Vietnam War, and later helped me to understand how the Shah of Iran did not help endear us to Iranians.

Scott had the courage to speak up if he saw something wrong. One time he spotted a canoeist who had set ashore on one of the isles in Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. “Get off the island!” he kept shouting at the man, until he did. Apparently the islands were nesting grounds for birds.

Scott introduced us to the Star Trek TV show, where we learned about progressive egalitarianism through science fiction. We lamented how all too often dinner would start just before the end of the program. One time Scott took a magazine, and through a clever use of eraser and pencil to eyes and ears, transformed all the humans to Vulcans. We learned how to create the phaser sound by simultaneously humming and whistling.

He taught us the difference between a refined, high English accent, and a Cockney, low English accent. He told us of an astronomy professor who would tell jokes only the professor could understand. For example, “The ancient Greeks had two names for the planet Venus: The evening star, and the morning star!”

When we were little, Scott would pick us up by our heads, but it was safe, because we would instinctively grab his wrists. When Suzanne was little, one time Scott sat on the edge of the bed, she would climb on his back, and he would say, “Oh, there’s a monkey on my back!” and lift her over his shoulders and on to the floor, where she would repeat the sequence.

At Fri Mar 04, 07:04:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...


This is not a religious service, and Scott and I did not talk much about our personal religious beliefs, but one moment stands out in my memory. When the St. John’s Bible was on exhibit, Scott hosted us at the museum and bought us dinner in the cafeteria there. When we first got there, we quickly skipped the official tour because Scott was a more knowledgeable guide. We also wandered the exhibit as individuals, each of us admiring whatever lettering, gilding, or illumination caught our attention. At one point, as we stood before an image of Paul, Scott was critical of that apostle, suggesting to me that perhaps he got some things wrong. To me this made perfect sense. Paul was the first to admit that he himself was just a man. To me, Scott’s observation was critical thinking at its finest.

I’ll conclude by singing six lines from one of the Christmas carol harmonies I learned from Scott. I selected this song because of its emphasis on nature and the spiritual beauty that dwells within it, and because the most religious part is in Latin, which adds a nice layer of abstraction. Also, it’s one where I can sing the harmony starting from line one. Please note that I was learning by rote as Scott was probably winging it, so I would often sing the melody for the first couple lines. I want to sing the bass part a cappella, in honor of Scott. So imagine the seven of us, Burton, Marilyn, Scott, Connie, Bruce, Tom, and Janet, sitting down on Christmas Eve for our traditional dinner of oyster soup, then retiring to the living room, turning out all the lights except for the Christmas tree and maybe some candles, hanging up our stockings by the fireplace, and singing Christmas carols, most singing the melody, but Scott and I singing the low part.

Angels we have heard on high
Singing sweetly o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains of
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

At Sat Mar 05, 08:41:00 PM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I have been a business partner in medical practice with Monte for many years. I had the pleasure to meet with Scott on a few occasions. Each time I came away with good feelings about our conversations. At the memorial service today I saw how special and loved he was. My sincere condolences to all his family. Monte, please understand that we share your pain. The service was beautiful. Thank you. roy

At Sun Mar 06, 08:59:00 AM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Thank you Roy. It was nice to have you and others with us as we remembered Scott.

For those who were unable to attend, here is the program:

Welcoming remarks by Barry Feld (friend)
Ann Goodwin (H.S. Journalism teacher)
“Somewhere over the Rainbow”
Tom Cleland (brother)
Scott’s nieces and nephew: Emily, Elizabeth, Suzanne, Spencer, Kathryn, Lydia
Connie Cleland Butler (sister)
“You and Me Against the World”
Bruce Cleland (brother)
Janet Cleland (sister)
“Nessun Dorma”
Warren Schueneman (H.S. play director)
Video presentation
Closing remarks by Barry Feld and invitation to reception

Afterward Monte hosted us at his home, with excellent food and drink, beautiful art, and warm memories of Scott. The pet pheasant was there, and we also saw more deer: Two fawns in the wooded backyard. Some guests had traveled long distances. It was nice to see friends and relatives, and thank you to all who have sent notes of remembrance, support, and condolence.

At Sat Mar 19, 07:42:00 PM CDT, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Scott would have been 60 today.

In the days after the Mar. 5 memorial service, I looked up the lyrics to two of the songs, which I understand Scott selected. Yes, I think Scott is probably somewhere over the rainbow, where troubles melt like lemon drops. What I interpret is that the bluebirds are like the spirit. If we exist once, we can exist again. The other song, "You and Me Against the World," sung by Helen Reddy, talks about how we live on in the memories of others. I took note of the line, "And for all the times we've cried I always felt that God was on our side." That's how I feel, too.

In his last couple months, Scott typically hadn't wanted visitors, but when he did, he wanted to see us all at once. On Dec. 23 we visited him in the hospital. And when he returned home to spend his final days, he called and told me he was inviting friends and family over for a "party." We gathered at his home on Feb. 5. He was in a hospital bed in the living room, where he had a view through the picture window to the wooded back yard. I had a chance not only to say that I loved him, but also to take back what I had said about hoping he'd make it to his 60th birthday. Just as we can't stay awake forever, we can't live forever either, and Scott was weary. Our visit was planned to last three hours, but he was exhausted after two and we went to a nearby restaurant.

Scott's death was three days later, on Feb. 8. Monte said Scott was not in pain, and that he held Scott's hand, and said, "I'm here with you. You can just let go." Then, something on Scott's face registered, and his breathing slowed. He died at 9:27 am.

Today I thought to myself that maybe Scott's use of the word "party" was so that the Feb. 5 visit could be in place of Mar. 19. Whether or not, we feel fortunate we had a chance to say goodbye, and we're thinking about him today.

At Sat Dec 24, 06:27:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

One story about Scott I forgot to mention is when the family, Mom's kids and grandkids, went bowling, and Scott won! Scott was not much into sports, but he beat us all at bowling. I'm reminded of the one time we went bowling with Dad and he scored well over 200. Burton never bowled again because, as he put it, "I didn't want to hurt my average."


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