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In Memory of David Erickson

David John Erickson, age 67, of Spring Green, WI, passed away on Monday, August 24, 2020 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, MN. Dave was born on April 28, 1953 in Racine, WI, to parents Irving and Betty (Nielsen) Erickson. He graduated from Rockford East High School in Rockford, IL and went on to attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL where he earned his degree in Cinema and Photography.

Post-graduation, Dave began his career as a journalist at the Galena Gazette in Galena, Illinois. From there he moved onto Apple River, IL, where he acted as PR director at Eagle Valley Environmentalists and directed his first production – a PSA featuring actress Blair Brown. He continued writing freelance articles for various magazines, accumulating stories of famous names he got to interview during this time. He spent some years of his twenties tree planting across large swaths of the United States, living out of a truck camper with his cat, Alice. In 1983, he worked in PR again, this time at American Players Theatre during the first few years of the theatre’s creation in Spring Green, WI. In the mid-1980’s, Dave worked at Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, WI, giving tours in the winery’s infancy. He and founder Bob Wollersheim worked together to celebrate the bald eagles that flew over the vineyard, starting an early version of Eagle Watching Days, serving wines named Eagle Red and Eagle White, and beginning ongoing bald eagle fundraising that continues today.

In 1985, Dave began the most important part of his career and what would become his life’s passion: writing, producing, and directing documentary films from idea, to the page, to the screen. Under his company Ootek Productions, he became a prolific and well-known documentary filmmaker, producing 40 documentaries that blended ecology, conservation, history, and human experience. He would regularly ask friends and family to perform in his ambitious reenactments set during countless times throughout history, engaging his community in both content and creation. His award-winning films were shown regularly on Wisconsin Public Television and at local film festivals.

A man devoted to both community and nature, Dave helped form the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council (FBEC) and Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW). He was on the Citizen Advisory Committee for the formation of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway.

Dave broke much of the world into two pieces: nature and the natural world, and the world of humanity…art, literature, music, film, politics, and the environment. He never lost his curiosity or appetite for either pieces and inspired all around him to look closer, to learn, and to enjoy themselves. A man who loved his friends and family fiercely and with immense loyalty, Dave and his spirit will be sorely missed.

He will remain in the hearts of his children Maia Erickson and Kira (Andy) Erickson-Peterson; Maia and Kira’s mother Judy Smith; brother Tom Erickson and sister Susan Richardson; nieces Jill, Mary, Kate, Claire, and Meghan. His parents Irv and Betty precede him in death.

A private green burial took place at Circle Cemetery in Barneveld, WI on August 30.

A celebration of life will be held at a future date.

Memorials are preferred to the discretion of the family. Cards for Dave’s family can be mailed to: O’Connell Family Funeral Home, Care of David Erickson Family, 520 11th St. S, Hudson, WI 54016. The family deeply appreciates all thoughts & prayers extended to them during this time.


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    • This is hard to believe. My former boyfriend from Rockford who convinced me to go to college at Southern IL University Carbondale, which transformed my life. I ended up getting my bachelors and masters degrees there, owning a home there, doing activist and political work there, working full-time managing environmental laboratories on campus, and even buying a house there. I have the funniest memories of Dave and I. We had a terrible one-car accident in the snow in rural Rockford where my head hit and shattered the windshield. He was driving and he hit something buried in the snow. I don’t remember much about it except that we went to the hospital and were kind of stunned by it. He took me to Champaign to stay with, what he termed were “hippies” one weekend. It was a group living situation….all that I remember is that the food was terrible and I am mostly vegetarian! Must have been bad….then we went to Carbondale. I moved to Carbondale in 1977 and Dave and I would hang out….we lived near each other and had mutual friends. I remember his cat Alice and what a terrible housekeeper he was…even contracting intestinal parasites! This blew my mind (I am a biologist!) He was such a great, great writer and I remember that he was a really big deal at SIU’s award-winning Daily Egyptian newspaper. I think he covered music. Memory from 70s runs together because so much was happening in Carbondale. I stayed in Carbondale for nearly a decade and he went to Wisconsin. We reconnected in 2018 because he sought me out through our friend Brian Sandstrom, my dear friend who even bought my father, jazz musician Val Eddy’s two basses after he died. In fact, I have pictures of Dave and I hearing my father perform at the Manor in Beloit, WI. So, we talked and then I saw him at the Daily Egyptian 50th reunion. I was shocked at how he looked, despite him telling me that he had a brain tumor. We hung out that weekend and he bitched about the flea-bag hotel he was staying at…typical southern cheapie hotel. I knew of his work with cranes and he told me over the past few years about his documentary work. A few times when I was in WI, I would call him but he wasn’t well enough to visit, unfortunately. The last time I called was when I was in his area in June and I left a voicemail but he didn’t call back. Now I know why. Then I read the shocking news of his daughter’s on Facebook and talked with mutual friends about this sad turn of events. Dave was so talented, so nice, so funny, and taken from us way too early. Soar with the cranes dear soul. I look forward to attending your memorial. Many condolences to his children, ex-wife and all the family. He surely left his mark on this planet, which is so much the better for him having done so.