Art teacher Thorvald Charles Hansen had a good eye.
He saw the splendor in the natural world he loved to photograph, and he saw the potential and goodness in the thousands of children he taught and nurtured, friends and family said.
"He always looked for beauty. He had an eye for it. He was drawn to it," said his wife, Carmen Hansen. "He'd stop and say, 'Oh, look — isn't that lovely? Isn't that perfect?' He saw what other people often overlooked."
Hansen taught art at Eden Lake Elementary in Eden Prairie for 28 years before moving to Gleason Lake Elementary in the Wayzata School District last fall.
Hansen, of Eden Prairie, died suddenly on March 12 from a pulmonary embolism. He was 58.
He left behind more than 35,000 images that he photographed during his lifetime and a generation of schoolchildren he influenced with his creative teaching style.
"He made everyone feel unique," said fellow teacher Kristine Paulsen. "For children, it's something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. He's influenced thousands of students and lots of adults, too."
Hansen was born on Jan. 7, 1961, in Minneapolis, the oldest of Thor and Nancy Hansen's three children.
He was the third generation "Thorvald," and his family and friends lovingly called him "Thor 3." He grew up in Bloomington and graduated from Kennedy High School in 1979. Hansen earned his associate's, bachelor's and master's in educational leadership, all from Bethel University.
Hansen met his wife, also a Bethel student, during his undergraduate years. They both graduated in 1984 and married that same year. Hansen landed his first full-time teaching job at Eden Lake Elementary, staying there for nearly three decades.
For nine summers, he also worked as a camp director at Camp Ojibway in Siren, Wis., with his wife serving as camp nurse and their three children in tow.
"He really enjoyed the elementary school kids," Carmen Hansen said. "He loved being goofy and having a fun time with them."
Hansen occasionally taught as his wacky alter egos, nerdy "Cliff" and southern inventor "Biff," to the delight of his students and colleagues.
"He would stay in character all day. He would come home exhausted, but he loved making the kids laugh," Carmen Hansen said.
Hansen handed out "Caught Ya" certificates to reward students' work hard and good behavior. At the end of the year, the class with the most certificates turned Hansen's car into art, covering it with painted designs.
He also nurtured his colleagues' creativity. He hosted "Fun Fridays" for his fellow teachers, inviting them to come to school a bit early to drink coffee and doodle together in his art room.
For nearly two decades, Hansen volunteered with the junior high team at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie. He helped with activities each week and, camera in hand, chaperoned a group of young teens on a mission trip to Colorado each summer.
"He was one of the most kind, likable, loving guys I've ever known," said Wooddale Junior High Pastor Heather Flies.
Hansen retired from Eden Lake in spring 2018. He soon realized he still had a passion for teaching and was hired as the art teacher at Gleason Lake starting last fall.
"He lived his life to give honor and glory to God. His foundation was his faith in Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior," Carmen Hansen said.
He is survived by his parents, his wife, daughters Kiersten and Annika, both of Minneapolis; son Thor 4 and his wife, Kelsey, of Rochester, and granddaughters Elsa and Svea.
Services have been held.