Family members in Brainerd knew about the World War II exploits that led to the late Sgt. Roy Schellin receiving the Distinguished Service Cross and several other military honors.
What they didn't know is that a prominent artist's portrait of Schellin has been hanging for years in the Pentagon as part of the Air Force's art collection.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken says his staff was able to track down the portrait after Schellin's daughter asked for help in ascertaining whether the painting really existed and where it might be. Now Franken says he's arranging for Caralee Bjerkness and other family members to be met by Pentagon staff for a private viewing of the portrait during a visit to Washington this summer.
Schellin died in 2012 at age 91. An obituary in the Brainerd Dispatch listed his military honors, which include a Purple Heart, an Air Medal with 1 Cluster, a Good Conduct Medal, a World War II Victory Medal, and a Presidential Citation with 3 Clusters.
Schellin served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1942-1945, flying many missions over Europe as a gunner on a B-17 Heavy Bomber. According to Military Times' Hall of Valor, his Distinguished Service Cross was awarded for a mission he flew on July 14, 1943.
He was wounded on that mission – Sen. Franken's statement says Schellin lost the use of his right arm – but he nonetheless shot down two enemy planes.
Part of his citation quoted in Military Times reads: "The personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by Staff Sergeant Schellin on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces."
Schellin later sat for Charles Baskerville, a leading portrait painter and muralist of the time. The New York Times reported in its 1994 obituary of Baskerville that he was the official portrait painter of the Army Air Forces. The Times says Baskerville's likenesses of officers and enlisted men were exhibited widely before going on permanent display at the Pentagon.
Franken says he was excited to learn that family members, who already knew that Schellin was a war hero, will be able to see his painting and celebrate it.