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Philanthropist and former CIA member David (Mike) Winton was born to lumber wealth. A successful businessman in his own right, he gave away millions of dollars to charity and persuaded others to give millions, too.

Winton, a key contributor to the arts who believed in raising the quality of life for everyone, died April 30 at his Minneapolis home of complications of a long-term blood disorder and heart failure. The longtime Orono resident was 79.

In 1999, he received the United Way of Minneapolis Area's Distinguished Service Award and, in 2008, the University of Minnesota Regents Award.

Winton influenced the design of three major Minneapolis buildings -- the Walker Art Center, the then-Norwest Bank building and, with his wife, Sarah (Penny) of Minneapolis, the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

He was quoted in an April 12, 1999, Star Tribune article as saying, "It's one thing to write a check. It's quite another to really get your emotions involved. That's where the payoff is, in these relationships and with the people that are really impacted by some of the things we're involved in."

According to the article, he contributed 5 percent of his assets annually to charity.

Winton served on the board of the Walker Art Center for more than 20 years, and he and his wife donated many pieces of their art collection.

Martin Friedman of New York, former director of the Walker, called him "a truly civilized man."

"He was an original, and he had a wonderful wit and a great take on the world," Friedman said.

And Winton cared deeply for the broader community, acquaintances said.

"He cared about poor people having art, too" and the dignity "of having a house and decent job," said Joe Selvaggio, a founder of Project for Pride in Living.

Tom Johnson, former president of the Council of Crime and Justice, said that "because he was a gentle man didn't mean he wasn't a fighter."

Many years ago, Winton was instrumental in launching the council's racial disparity initiative, which examined the causes of racial inequality in the justice system.

Winton's grandfather and great-uncle started lumber companies in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada in the early 1900s. His father, David J. Winton, was president of the Winton Lumber Co. and an oil and gas firm.

Winton grew up in the Minneapolis area and became the chairman of the family's Pas Lumber Co. as well as the family's investment manager and a venture capital wiz in such companies as SciMed, American Medical Systems and Old Country Buffet.

He attended Blake School in Hopkins, finishing high school in Massachusetts. In 1951, he earned a bachelor's degree at Princeton University in New Jersey.

After graduation, he completed Army Ranger training as a member of a CIA paramilitary team based in Germany.

In 1957, he earned an MBA at Harvard University.

In addition to his wife of 56 years, he is survived by three sons, David of San Francisco, Rufus of Wayzata and Nicholas of Boston; two daughters, Sarah Chase of Los Angeles and Lucy Starkweather of New York; two sisters, Margaret Anderson of Wayzata and Katherine Evans of Washington, and 12 grandchildren.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Av., Minneapolis.