Born: May 9, 1927 as Kenneth Ray Erickson to Melvin and Katie Erickson.
Katie nicknamed him Billy when he was about 3, and that stuck with him for life. Billy was a cadet at Hill Crest Golf Course when he was about 12 years old. It was burning a lot of sun and turning pink. The guys in the class nicknamed him (Pinky). Many of his friends knew him by this name. Billy started working at Hormel at the age of 15. He graduated from Austin High School in 1945. He joined the Navy upon graduation from high school as a Petty Officer 3rd Class and served in Pearl Harbor and Guam. He returned from service and enrolled at Austin Junior College. Billy played soccer (quarterback) and basketball in 1948-49. He led the basketball team to an unbeaten season and conference champions. While studying at university, he returned to work full time at Hormel.
Billy married Janice Syverson in 1951 and they had 43 wonderful years of marriage. Jan died of cancer in 1994. In Billy’s career he played amateur basketball (played against the Harlem Globetrotters 3 times). He played handball, racquetball and tennis and was a good athlete, but golf was his passion.
Billy has won two Austin City Openings and has competed in numerous regional and national events, including the Minnesota Open Championship. He has played against many notable golfers including Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Walter Hagen. He was often seen in the park with his dog practicing his small game. Often friends would see him and ask him for a golf lesson. He’s taught many of us including Jon Chaffee (who played on the PGA Tour for 3 years), Margo Anderson (Austin CC Women’s Club Championship for years), Susan Erickson (Ramsey Golf Club Champion for many years). many years).
Billy and Susan got married in 1998. They enjoyed traveling on day trips to casinos and movies, and enjoyed a meal together. Billy’s health and poor back prevented him from playing golf in his last years of life. He was a great storyteller and repeatedly shared his caddy experiences for Jon Chaffee as he qualified for the PGA Tour and also hung out with Brandel Chamblee (now on the golf channel). Brandel presented Billy with his first burritos. Besides Brandel, Billy knew Wally Ulrich (arguably Austin’s best amateur golfer) and Tom Lehman. Chamblee and Lehman often made a point of saying hello to Billy when they saw him at a tournament. Billy was everyone’s friend and will be sadly missed.
Billy listed his accomplishments as “having lots of friends, trying to do the right things in life, and loving his brothers and sister”. He also shared how blessed his life is with Janice and Susan. He said “I love them so much, I thank God for having them in my life”.
Billy is survived by his wife, Susan, and his sisters-in-law Shirley and Darlene Erickson. Preceded to death by his parents and his wife Janice, his brothers Russel, Roland, Robert, Donald and his sister Nancy.
Billy donated his body to the Mayo Clinic. A celebration of life with family and invited friends is underway. A memorial fund has been established at Accentra Credit Union in Austin, Minnesota, known as the “Kenneth Erickson Memorial”. The funds will be used to plant a tree and a plaque at Meadow Greens.
Billy passed away peacefully on May 18, 2021 at his home.