Reverend Brent Bielenberg will never forget the frosty spring day when he walked into Key’s Cafe in Woodbury and found Brett Carlson sitting inside conversing with a friend.
“Yeah, I’m not going to pay for the food today,” Bielenberg recalled thinking to himself.
Sure enough, when the Bierenberg order arrived, the server said the check had already been processed and gestured towards the cafe’s entrance as Carlson walked out.
Friends and colleagues have described Brett Carlson as their biggest inspiration, their “best supporter” and the light in the room he entered. After years of fighting, he died on November 26th. Carlson was 45 years old.
He was born at United Hospital in St. Paul on November 17, 1977, but was raised in White Bear Lake. Brett Carlson was an active kid, playing football, basketball and baseball in high school.
“He loved playing with anything he could bounce and throw,” said his brother Brandon Carlson.
Brett Carlson received a BA in Social Studies Education from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls in 2001. During his studies, he met and fell in love with the woman who would become his wife, Renee. They married in 2002 and had two daughters, Megan in 2007 and Sarah in 2010.
Brett and Renee bonded their faith. He began each morning with prayer, read the Bible diligently, and recorded his thoughts and points.
Brett Carlson’s passion for sports led to his eventual career as an educator, attending college and working for the Kansas City Chiefs during training each summer.
He has taught at several metropolitan high schools, beginning with his tenure at Apple Valley High. He loved interacting with his students and enjoyed his time as a coach, including football, basketball, baseball and track and field.
“He had a knack for making people feel comfortable, safe and important,” said Lenny Carlson. “Brett’s purpose and focus was on others.”
A prolific Twitter user, he used the platform to promote his school’s fundraiser and sporting events. A simple “Let’s go!”
Brett Carlson eventually took on several administrative positions at North Branch Area Schools, working closely with then-Superintendent Deb Heton. She recalled that Brett Carlson occasionally wore a White Bear Lake High letterman jacket to a lighthearted eye roll from her colleague on special occasions.
“I can imagine him taking off that jacket in heaven,” Henton said.
Brett Carlson decided to step down from his job as an educator in January 2020 and take a yearlong vacation to visit family across the state. He cut his trip short by two months when he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Brett Carlson spent most of the next 18 months visiting schools, giving motivational speeches about perseverance and the power to show up for others.
“He wanted to give people permission to dream and think big,” Lenny Carlson said.
Carlson is survived by his wife and daughters. his parents Tom and Carlene; brother Brandon. his sister Heidi Olson;
Service was held.