Jerry Erickson loved Lakeville. When he wasn't working 12-hour days at his pharmacy, he was often performing civic duties, such as Chamber of Commerce work or planning the city's annual Panorama of Progress festival. He helped found both.
"Jerry was the ultimate volunteer," said Steve Michaud, Lakeville's parks and recreation director. "He was involved in every aspect of the community ... with a focus on making this a safer, more enjoyable place to live. He did it with a lot of humor and positive feedback."
Erickson, who also helped start the town's Little League baseball team, always wore his Lakeville ball cap, said his wife, Martha. "He loved his community," she said.
Erickson, 81, died of natural causes July 30 in his home on Lake Marion in Lakeville. A few weeks earlier, the City Council had honored him with its Lakeville Pioneer Award. A bronze plaque with his picture will stand in Pioneer Plaza in the downtown area he helped preserve, officials said.
Erickson, who grew up on a Chisago County farm, moved with his wife to the square-mile Village of Lakeville, population 1,000, in 1963. Within a decade he had opened Erickson's Drug and helped found the Chamber of Commerce and Lakeville's annual July festival, nicknamed Pan-O-Prog.
He also had served on the city's Economic Development Commission since it was formed in 1989, said Bob Erickson, former city administrator.
"He was the ultimate ambassador for Lakeville," said Bob Erickson, who is not related to Jerry. In his early days as a pharmacist, Erickson used to deliver prescriptions and advice to the city's elderly, he said. "Jerry was much more than just the town druggist," Bob Erickson said. "You could never pick up a prescription without learning about what was going on in the community. He was like the town crier, giving medical and political news."
Erickson's wife and two children helped at the pharmacy, which grew with the suburb. He also opened a Ben Franklin store with his son, Scott, who still runs it.
Pan-O-Prog was born in 1967, the year Lakeville incorporated as a city of 38 square miles. It now has more than 56,000 people. The weeklong Pan-O-Prog attracts more than 50,000 people, Bob Erickson said.
Jerry Erickson started Pan-O-Prog to unify city neighborhoods, which were growing apart, his wife said, adding: "Our purpose was to bring the town together. That was the thing he was proudest of."
Michaud, who knew Erickson for 37 years, said, "He was very open-minded and listened to both sides" on the issues that arose as Lakeville grew.
"He used good common sense, and that rubs off on people when you are dealing with contentious issues," Michaud said. "He was a peacemaker."
When the Ericksons sold their pharmacy and retired in 2000, the Chamber of Commerce named them businesspeople of the year, Bob Erickson said. Jerry Erickson was named the city's Citizen of the Year in 1987.
In addition to his wife of 56 years, Erickson is survived by their two children, Deb Anderson and Scott Erickson, both of Lakeville; a sister, Marge Brown, of Apple Valley, and four grandchildren. Services have been held.