Darrell Lee Erickson, 80, a longtime Austin, Minnesota, teacher, died Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, in Billings. Darrell will be buried at the Yellowstone National Cemetery in Laurel, at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19, followed by a memorial service at 1:30 p.m., at the Mission Ridge Chapel. Services were held in Austin on Aug. 17.
He was born, as he liked to say, “March29, 1937.” He was born in Chicago, and adopted as an infant by Lee and Gertrude Erickson. The family moved to Minneapolis while Darrell was still a baby. Several years later, his sister, Rita, was adopted and the family was complete. Darrell went to Catholic school through the eighth grade and graduated from Washburn High School in 1955.
After high school, Darrell enlisted in the Marine Corps. He served as an aircraft mechanic and was honorably discharged in 1958. Upon returning to Minnesota, he used his GI Bill to get his elementary teaching degree at the University of Minnesota. He taught one year in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, then came to Austin Public Schools in 1965 and taught there until his retirement in 1997. Darrell was a fourth, fifth and sixth grade and Chapter 1 teacher. He taught at Woodson, Sumner, Webster, Neveln, Banfield and Ellis schools. Darrell continued his education at Minnesota State-Mankato and graduated with a master’s degree plus a sixth year.
During his tenure in Austin, Darrell coached girls’ volleyball, girls’ basketball, and track and field. Darrell was also an enthusiastic Austin Packers fan. No matter the weather, he would never miss a game.
There will never be another unique man quite like Darrell. He was truly a renaissance man. Every summer, he traveled somewhere in the United States or the world. In 1976, he biked across the United States from coast to coast to celebrate the bicentennial. He visited every continent, took many river cruises, and made it almost to the base camp at Mt. Everest.
Darrell never went anywhere without his camera. He photographed many beautiful scenery photos and was the family photographer. At one family wedding, his were the only photographs that recorded the wedding as the hired photographer’s pictures never turned out.
The Austin YMCA was his second home. He was a lifeguard and lifeguard instructor. Darrell could be found at the Y several times a day and made many friends there. He also spent many hours as a Red Cross Volunteer and instructor.
In June 2014, he made the decision to move to Billings to be with his cousin Judy Frank and her husband Warren. His memory was starting to fade and he needed someone to care for him. Darrell moved into Mission Ridge Independent Living and was there for eight months. His Alzheimer’s disease became more aggressive, and he moved into a secure memory cottage, where he lived until his passing.
Darrell was preceded in death by both parents and his sister Rita. His cousin Judy Frank and her family survive him. He also leaves behind many cousins and friends that were his family in Minnesota and around the country.
Memorials may be sent to St. John’s Lutheran Ministries, 3940 Rimrock Road, Billings, MT 59102. Michelott-Sawyers is assisting.