For generations of Minnesotans, Roger Erickson was the first voice they heard in the morning.
The WCCO-AM radio legend, along with his co-host Charlie Boone, were the morning duo that people tuned into for a laugh over their morning coffee and commute, for news and the day's weather. In the winter, kids everywhere listened, rapt, for Erickson to list their school among the snow-day closures.
His deep, melodious voice made getting up in the morning a bit more comforting, a little more fun.
Erickson died Monday at his home in Plymouth. He was 89.
Those who tuned to 830 AM on the radio dial every morning thought of Erickson as more than just a guy on the radio. He was like a neighbor. He became part of your family, said WCCO-AM morning news host Dave Lee. "He was smart, funny and very clever. He was everything you would want from a friend."
Those who worked alongside him say he was an extraordinary talent, a gifted writer and a "treasure trove" of ideas. He was a Minnesota farm kid who was genuine and unassuming. He was a quintessential Minnesotan.
"If you were going to go to central casting to find the Minnesotan, Roger would be a great candidate for that," said Eric Eskola, a longtime colleague. He was a "jack of all trades," who could easily switch from telling a joke to delivering the breaking news of the day, Eskola said. "People trusted him. He was one of them."
Inside and outside the radio station, Erickson was one of the most beloved personalities, said Steve Murphy, who worked alongside Erickson for about 18 years.
Erickson was the guy who laughed at himself and found humor in "the life we all live here in Minnesota, especially in winter," Murphy said. He could talk about sitting in the bleachers when it's 20-below and say, "It's not that bad." And he often gave his audience the windshield index — whether or not you could scrape the ice off with your credit card, Murphy said.
For decades, more than half of local radios would tune into Boone and Erickson's show. Their 38 years together made them the longest-running on-air duo on a single station in American broadcasting, they said in a 2013 interview. They were famous for involving interview subjects — from Hollywood actors to Minnesota governors to state troopers — in skits and sketches.
But it was Erickson's delivery of school closings during a snowstorm that is etched in the memories of those who tuned in.
"He elevated it to an art form," Murphy said. With his pace and cadence, it was entertaining, he said. "You had a feeling for where the storm was heading based on which schools were closing, and Roger brought it all to us."
Erickson was a 2001 charter inductee into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame. His biography on that website called him, "The man who made school closing announcements an art form."
Growing up on a farm near Winthrop, Minn., he studied speech and theater at the University of Minnesota, where he appeared in productions such as Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and wrote and produced programs for the university station, KUOM.
He joined WAVN in Stillwater in 1951, served two years in the Army, returned to WAVN, and moved to WCCO Radio in 1959, serving as an announcer, and also appearing as "Bozo the Clown" on WCCO TV.
He hosted a 5 a.m. show for years and, in 1961, an afternoon show just before Boone's program. The two began to chat and trade jokes on each other's show and "Boone and Erickson" was born.
Erickson retired from the weekday show in January 1997 but continued to work with Boone from 6 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays.
Their last show, in January 1998, featured guests former Govs. Al Quie and Wendell Anderson — "one Republican, one Democrat, one Norwegian, one Swede," Erickson said of the lineup.
Boone died in 2015 at age 88.
Erickson said then that he was looking forward to not getting up at 4 a.m. anymore. Though he may have slept in a bit, his Hall of Fame biography said he remained active in numerous community activities and events.
Dave Mona, a longtime friend of Erickson (and Boone) posted news of Erickson's death on his Facebook page Monday night.
"He always joked that on his gravestone we wanted it to read:
"Formerly two hours late. Now closed," the post said.
Erickson is survived by his wife, Margaret; a daughter, Tracy Anderson, and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 10, at the Lafayette Club in Orono.
Staff writer Karen Zamora contributed to this report. Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788 Pat Pheifer • 612-673-7252