Rare was a trade event when he wouldn’t come up to you with a pat on the shoulder and a full, beaming smile. Life, it seemed, was always good even when it wasn’t.
That was David Erickson’s spirit and his lasting legacy. David was the son of Claire and Betty Erickson and a thirdgeneration c-store guy, leading Hudson, Wis.-based Erickson Oil Products and its Freedom Valu Centers as CEO. This year is the company’s 60th anniversary, one that will forever be bittersweet. David died in a motorcycle accident July 28 near Bozeman, Mont. His wife, Debi, was with him and was injured. He was 55.
To honor David and the life he led, we asked his friend and colleague Darren Forbes to share some memories. Darren is Erickson’s vice president of merchandise. What follows are his thoughts.
David Erickson truly enjoyed the business and made many friends along the way. He was active in NACS, SIGMA, CSX Study Group and Minnesota Petroleum Marketers Association, and he valued the relationships. David had a big heart and a general’s handshake. Someone once said that the eyes are the window to your soul. So it went with David: He was peering into that window when he talked to you.
As our top exec, David put a great deal of emphasis on teamwork. He would often say, “There is no I in TEAM.” That was his creed and something he lived by. A winter’s snowfall? No problem: David, regardless of his attire that day, would grab a shovel and start pushing snow. David would never walk by trash without picking it up. It was his way and the example he set.
David had passion for life and savored the experiences of it. He loved his family dearly and was a wonderful example of how to be a dad. David enjoyed the outdoors: He was an avid hunter and loved to fish and ski. He loved the mountains, especially in Montana. David was always looking forward to the next adventure and enjoyed planning the family trips. He was also an excellent pilot and enjoyed flying his team to the Freedom Valu Center stores in South Dakota, rural Minnesota and northern Michigan. David valued traditions, and one tradition he looked forward to the most was Freedom Pheasant Rally. Every October, David would organize a group of more than 20 close friends and family to hunt pheasants in Mitchell, S.D. These beautiful birds are wily and fast—not easy targets.
David, however, was a heck of a shot, and he seldom missed. After a long day, hunters and dogs would head from the hunting fields to the motel. We’d have cocktails, embellish the stories of our adventures and share many laughs. David was a brilliant storyteller, and his recounting made for some very fond memories I will carry for a long time. I also remember vividly how proud David was when his two boys started hunting and shot their first birds.
David was a man of friendships and tradition. For every grand opening or anniversary, we transport by trailer the Freedom merry-go-round to the store. Now, this merry-go-round must be 1950s vintage, and it has seen better days. David loved it so, even as it aged beyond repair. Finally, it became apparent that the increasingly squeaky and rattling noises from the merry-goround were scaring the little tykes! (We have since retired the merry-go-round.) David’s loyalty and sense of nostalgia were inherent to the person he was.
David Erickson was an inspirational leader, mentor and dear friend. I was blessed to know him. It has been and is an honor to serve as one of his lieutenants, the other being Gary Vander Vorst, our executive vice president and CFO. Gary and I hope to perpetuate David’s legacy and do right by his wife, Debi, and the fourth generation of the Erickson family.
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