Kjell Erik Anderson (1961 – 2012)

Madison East High Aviation educator lived to help others, some into the air

I am very sad to have learned that my friend, Kjell Erik “Da Swede” Anderson, suffered a massive heart attack this morning (September 10, 2012) and passed away, at school here, in Madison. He was 51.

Erik taught Aviation and Band at East High School and Sherman Middle school in Madison, carrying on the proud tradition of educating area youth about aviation.

That was his dream job, but he also taught music in the Milwaukee schools for many years. Regardless of his focus, he always was trying to help young people excel, achieve, succeed, or just survive.

I have known Erik since 1994 when we met through our shared passion of aviation. We both belonged to the Experimental Aircraft Association and bonded through its many activities including it’s annual fly-in convention in Oshkosh, WI. To Erik I was a friend, roommate, flight instructor, nuisance, and source of laughter; mostly through my actions.

Erik, who enjoyed welding, sits in the fuselage of his One Design aerobatic aircraft. It was dubbed the “Never Done Design” for obvious reasons.

Erik was from the “Milwaukee school”, which means he was inherently creative in the mechanical sense. He loved to weld, work on small engines, or just work to make some hopeless pile of machinery run again.

When I met him, he lived on the northwest side of Milwaukee, just blocks from our mutual friend, Bob Lang who was building an RV-6.

Bob started the project two years prior, and as the years went by, Erik became more and more involved. Erik would move to Waunakee in 2002, and Bob to Lodi a year later. Of course the still unfinished airplane went with them – parts of it landing at both houses. I’m not sure how many aircraft projects Erik started in his life, but I know his pride and joy is the RV-6 he built with Bob.

The first flight of N953BL was in January 2012 at Sauk Prairie Aiport. Courtesy: Gordon Smith

The aircraft flew for the first time earlier this year and made its Oshkosh appearance this past July, which is the penultimate moment for any aircraft homebuilder. The other half of his self-titled “Swedish Air Force” is his Piper Comanche, which he acquired a few years ago.

There wasn’t a person Erik wouldn’t play with. Here he plays with Oshkosh legend Jerry Sleger (foreground).

Erik’s other indelible passion was music. He played mainly accordion and trumpet, but he could play it all. He taught music for 16 years in the Milwaukee Public Schools.

He also played in several local and regional bands including the famous Alvin Styczynski TV and Recording Orchestra (Pulaski, WI) as a trumpet and accordion player and Johnny on Washday, which included his brother Jon on saxophone.

Erik’s Weapon of Musical Distraction (accordion) was featured each evening on EAA Radio during The Traffic Jam, and on some nights in the EAA Campground each year during the Oshkosh convention. His music amongst our group of friends was so appreciated that every wedding, birthday, retirement or other friend-based gathering that was proposed, was always followed by, “…and Swede can bring his accordion.”

Related: Tribute from friend and mentee Joe Coraggio

One of my favorite yearly musical memories is the New Years Eve party held at Erik’s friend Gordys’ house, in Racine. It is a marathon of food, gallons of beer, Jagermeister, pranks, a hot tub, and music. Erik, his two brothers (Jon and Nils), and Gordy would bring out their instruments and play for the guests. It kept us all warm in spirit until it was time to light off the fireworks out in the snow, and then sit in Gordy’s hot tub until 5 a.m.

Erik (center) and his brother Jon (playing Saxophone) playing in Johnny on Washday this past summer.

Fun aside Erik lived his life for his students, whether they were into aviation or not. He was always involved in their lives, and he was the kind of teacher kids stayed in-touch with, long after they had moved on.

In 2001, Erik landed a dream job teaching aviation at Madison East High School. East’s Aviation program had been in existence for decades and was nationally known, sending many kids to college with a head-start on their aviation studies.

I was one of those kids who graduated from the program in 1991 under the previous teacher and founder of the program, and was very excited to see the curriculum continue to be offered to area students, especially with my friend at the helm.

Related: Tribute from friend Craig Henry

Erik, of course, wove himself deeply into to the fabric of East and its students, participating in many of its events and playing in the Pep Band with the students during athletic events. For a time, he also played with the student orchestra.

Erik loved to play at festivals and was a fixture during the Holiday Folk Fair in Milwaukee each year, often playing Finnish folk music.

I often spoke in front of his Aviation classes, and would meet many of Erik’s students. They were typical young people, some were motivated – some were not, but Erik always found a way to get them to achieve.

Erik was a stout man and he moved at one speed, talked at one speed, and very little gets him to move off of that velocity.

While he may not win any foot races, or be heard above the crowd; he was just the right speed for the kids in his life. Erik had that ability to project calm to some and prod others to action, which is why so many of his students have said he was just the person they needed at a key moment in their life.
His impact was evident from the messages from current and former students on his Facebook page.

– Mr. A, I am going to miss the hell out of you. You kept me in line when I needed it most, and always pushed me to improve myself, both as a student and as a person. I’ll never forget you. I love the hell out of you man.

– We used to jam to music, laugh at the craziest things. Make model airplanes and fly them through the sky, BTW you still owe me a real airplane ride :/. You were one that had a positive impact on every person you met. Not only to a great teacher, but an amazing friend, you will be forever missed

– Too many dying way too young, I thank you so much for being there for my sister many times, you were loved by many students….R.I.P. Kjell-Erik Anderson :'(

– You inspired the young minds of many students with your love for aviation and got us all inspired to want to fly. Today is the day you get you get your best set of wings, the wings of an angel. The sky’s the limit. Thank you for inspiring me. RIP

Swede and Weasel

Erik “Da Swede” Anderson co-founded the then named EAA AirVenture Cup race with his close friend, Eric “Da Weasel” Whyte, in the mid 1990s. Its one of his lasting legacies as the air race is still held each year, celebrating innovation by homebuilders. Often there are 60-80 entrants which speaks to the popularity of racing ones own creation and the well-run competition event that Swede and Weasel have shaped over the years.

The Swedish Air Force at Waunakee Airport, a residential air park. Erik moved here in 2002, the dream of most pilots; to have a garage and a hangar at your home.

I last “spoke” to Erik about 12 hours before his death – through Facebook chat – as he was telling me of the emergency landing he had to make on Saturday in the RV-6. He was flying with fellow pilot, Eric Whyte, headed north from Madison when an oil line failed. Smoke started to fill the inside of the aircraft.

They declared an emergency and landed near Necedah, Wisconsin. The owner of a hardware store in town was also a pilot, and, with his help, they quickly got some parts, fixed the cracked line, cleaned up the airplane (the underside was coated with oil), and flew home.

From his Facebook post about the flight:

Had quite a day! For the first time in many (many) years I had to declare an inflight emergency. Just as we were commenting on the lack of emergency landing places in North Western Wisconsin the cockpit started filling with smoke. Turned back to the nearest airport at Necedah WI. Landed and found a big mess. Seems the oil line to the prop governor cracked at the fitting. Aviation as a whole is educational. But it is amazing how a bad situation can teach you so many good things.

1. That leatherman tool my little brother/sister in law gave me has saved me many times.

2. If you have a choice of emergency airports pick the one that “Good Morning America” is not filming at.

3. If you do declare an emergency on 121.5 one of your airline pilot friends at 34,000 feet may recognize your N number and voice, and be on the phone shortly after you are on the ground to make sure things are all right and offer help. (amazing)

4. All that training on emergencies does pay off.

That’s aviation for you, always someone nearby to lend a hand as Erik had done countless times before for other pilots and their aircraft. What makes me the most happy is that his last flight was with his best friend. Knowing those two, I was only a little surprised by the story and not at all surprised by the outcome.

Erik Anderson (right) and Eric Whyte in Bob Lang’s RV-6 on Saturday September, 8, 2012. Courtesy: Eric Whyte

I can hear Weasel now, telling the story of the emergency landing at the campfire during Oshkosh next year. Weasel is a great storyteller and without his legendary embellishments, it is a story not worth being told. The oil line failure, the helpful controllers at nearby Volk Field, the helpful hardware man who got them parts and lunch for a total of $5, and of course flying home only hours later.

Yes I can envision it now…the Swede and Weasel flying home from Necedah laughing all the way. For once, it is a story in which I believe every word.

Related: Official Obituary of Kjell Erik Anderson

Related: Educator Erik Anderson Remembered During Hangar Service 

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47 thoughts on “Kjell Erik Anderson (1961 – 2012)

  1. Little did I realize, when I heard Erik’s voice on 121.5 discussing emergency landing at Neceda, that it would be the last time I would hear his voice, and not because of an aviation accident (which I was confident he could handle) but that a heart attack would take him away so soon.
    Too late did I learn about his activities in music for us to do much productive about our shared music interest.
    I, too, miss him already.
    Clear skies, Erik!

    • Neil,

      I was chatting on FB with him 12 hours earlier and he mentioned the serendipitous moment of a friend being overhead at the right time…he was most gratified that you were there for him. He delighted in the fact that a message from your wife was waiting for him when he landed.

      I listen to 121.5 when I fly for Air Wisconsin and its for moments like these that I monitor as well.

      • We were just exiting Minnesota toward Aberdeen, SD at 36,000′ and taking a handoff to a new Minneapolis Center sector when Erik declared his emergency, so I didn’t immediately focus in on his message but by the second transmission, I realized this was not only a real emergency situation but I began to recognize Erik’s voice and N#.
        I told the FO I’d be off #1 VHF radio for awhile and concentrated on what I was hearing on VHF #2 which was tuned to the emergency frequency, 121.5 MHz.
        I was awfully tempted to tell him to hang in there, but I did not attempt to transmit to him because I realized that he had it well in hand. Besides, I might have stepped on someone else’s transmission since I was too far away to hear the responses he was getting from ground stations. The 5th call he made was the last one I heard but by then it seemed he had landing assured in Neceda.
        When we got to PDX, I immediately called my wife (I didn’t have his #’s in my cell) and told her what I had heard and she said she’d give him a call to find out if he was OK. Fortunately he was but imagine my shock and sadness when he turned out to have a very different issue 2 days later.
        Erik was a great friend and wit and a good aviation mentor to my son, Jake. We’ll miss him!
        Neil

  2. Mr. Anderson taught my son Chas aviation at East HS. Although it had been several years since he had Chas as a student, he attended his funeral earlier this year. I specifically remember the kind words he expressed regarding Chas on that day. Mr. Anderson’s passing coincides with my late son’s birthday.

    Eric Bertun

  3. A life-long friend, Erik & I were born in 1961 across the street from each other in West Allis. Grew up together, graduated West Allis Central together, yet total opposites, supprisingly enough had so much in common. We were both advocates for teaching and supporting youth, both priviledged and under priviledged. He joined my family many times traveling to Mexico, Vegas, LA and Phoenix. During these travels, any place there was a piano, Erik would play our vacation theme song, The Peanuts theme song/Linus & Lucy. Erik’s dream of owning an airplane was always second nature. He called me one day telling me about a Camanche for sale at the Waunakee Airport. In July of 2009, Erik & I became partners in the ownership of N22TK. The last good-bye I said to Erik was when he took off from the Eagle River Airport July 4th weekend and he responded with an agressive wing wave good-bye in our Camanche. He will be sadly missed from my whole family.

  4. There is one fiesty East High Senior who will drag me up into an airplane (terror of heights, and all) so that we can jump in celebration of his June graduation this year. Why? Because Erik made a deal with us 4 years ago: RM, you face your challenges and graduate from East and RK you face your fear and jump with him when he does.

    Thanks, Erik, for pulling the tough ones through.

  5. Brother, many were the mornings I’d walk in to talk with you at East. You always made this place better for me and not because we went to the same Junior High or because I knew Nils there. You made it better because you always kept life in perspective and remembered what was valuable. Guitar Club was fantastic. I still wish you were teaching guitar class there so I could make guest appearances. You were a stabilizer in a school going through some major turbulence. The kids know that and always appreciated you for it, flocking to your classroom for some relative sanity. Thank you.

  6. Erik was a founding member and accordionist of the band Lekspel. ‘L’ for Lisa, ‘E’ for Erik, ‘K’ for Kent. Spel is Swedish for “play”. If I remember correctly, I believe that Erik took up the accordion in order to play his beloved Scandinavian music. I am the guitarist for the band and had just spoken with Erik a few days ago about our upcoming Scandinavian Fest gig.

    Erik was an incredible person, an amazing musician and a dear friend of mine. Yes, he could play anything. We played together at many Holiday Folk Fairs in Milwaukee. When we were back stage awaiting our turn to play, Erik would always be playing along to whatever music was playing on stage at that time (Russian, Hawaiian, Japanese, Serbian, Bavarian, Indian . . ). I can picture Erik with his head turned upward, eyes closed, feeling the music.
    Erik came up with the greatest harmonies and always tossed in new ideas in the midst of live playing. When he did it, he would give us a silly-ass grin.

    This is a huge loss to Erik’s school, music, and flying communities and his many friends.
    My prayers go out to Erik’s family.

    A light has been taken from us.

  7. Kjell, you were passionate, dependable, and engaging. You worked with the best of the best of ’em. Your legacy lives on…You will be missed.

  8. I was deeply saddened to of Erik’s (Boo Boo) passing this morning. We were room mates as freshman and sophomores at UWGB. We were like family. I had the pleasure of seeing him whenever I was in Madison area for workshops or performances. He was one of the sweetest people that I have ever met. A brilliant mind and very creative soul. He will me missed.
    Carl Allen

    • Glad you got the news Carl, Those are very kind and special words, Erik was always honored to be your friend and held you in the same high regard… best wishes -nils

  9. Sorry for his passing so soon. Both of my girls graduated from East High in Madison and I was glad Eric was doing his aviation class as well as band. We have a connection to both. I enjoyed his youthful enthusiasm and dedication to aviation for the next generation. He did make a difference to many.

  10. Wow, these are some well deserved tributes to a man who was a real friend to many, many poeple.Being a member of his family, (his brother Nils is married to my daughter, Julie) the notice of his passing is especially sorrowful to my wife and me. I am impressed with Erik’s intelligence, compassion for his friends, students and his family. While sitting next to him on Julie and Nils’ patio at many family gatherings and listening to him relate some of his many experiences, I knew I was sitting by, not only a very intelligent man, but also a man who really had a passion for passing on his knowledge to others. Erik was loved by his and my families and he will be greatly missed, but not forgotten. God has a real leader at His side now.

  11. As a fellow teacher at Sherman Middle, the passion Mr. Anderson showed for his craft was evident in kids’ comments and enthusiasm for class. We miss you and hold your friends and family’s grief in our hearts. Amazing tribute for an amazing guy.

  12. Thank you everyone for the kind words and tributes about our cousin Eric. He was the oldest of the bunch. My daughter and I got to sit in on one of his Back to School Night presentations a couple of years ago. You could tell he was doing what he loved. He will be greatly missed by many.

  13. Thank you this good writing and sharing the story of your friend. Sadly, East has lost a real teacher hero. I have shared your story with friends – aviation enthusiasts. I am sure he will be dearly missed.

  14. I first met Erik about 7 years ago in a shared interest in independent music. We soon discovered that we shared an interest in aviation as well. We exchanged stories an photos about our fly adventures. He told me that he hoped to travel to Alaska sometime soon so we could go flying togehter in my plane. I lament that I never had the chance to meet the man face-to-face and to fulfill his/our dreams of flying.

    My sincere condolences to his family. Thank you to the author of this blog for posting your thoughts about Erik, known to me as “Flying Trout”. I feel such a great sense of loss, yet I realize hardly knew him. I can’t begin to imagine the grief that is shared by his family and close friends. My thoughts and prayers with those of you who were close to him.

    Cub Driver

    • Bruce,

      Thanks for your comments, I was living with Erik in 2000-2001 when he discovered Whole Wheat Radio in Talkeetna…not sure if that is where you bumped into him but he was all about independent music and I was a strong listener to that stream for a long time too. He thought often of Alaska during that time and I know that would have been a dream experience for him.

    • Flying Trout? Boo Boo? Da Swede?
      A man of many names.
      In Lekspel he proclaimed himself “squeeze boy” and called me guitar boy.

    • Cub Driver,
      Flying Trout introduced me to so many bands over the years and turned me on to Whole Wheat a long time ago. I was mostly a lurker on WW never really joining but I was completely thrilled every time my band got airtime – Tyler Traband – uploaded by my wonderful brother Flying Trout. We had discussed how much fun it would be to go to one of the house party concerts in Talkeetna but of course never found the time to make it happen. Erik was a true music lover and I am so looking forward to raiding his hard drive!
      Thanks for your condolences!
      Jon

  15. Erik – Hailing back from the old UWGB days: How could I ever forget you and Jim Ott entertaining the UWGB Basketball Game crowd in a rendition of “Walking in my Winter Underwear.” It still brings a smile on my face after some 30 years! You will be missed!

  16. Erik was one of my favorite people at East when I taught there, and I was shocked to hear about his sudden passing. Like Doug, I saw Erik as a refuge from the insanity that can be high school teaching, and Erik had a calming influence on so many students and fellow teachers too. I knew quite a few teachers through my seven years at East who stayed in school because they had a connection to a kind and caring teacher in Erik. What a loss for so many people…goodbye, Erik.

  17. Will always remember playing alongside Erik (Boo Boo to everyone I knew) in Alvin Stykzynski’s polka band, making up new and totally inappropriate harmonies as we went along, trying to still play our trumpets while cracking up laughing. Lost touch with him, but am glad to see he finally got to realize his dream of flying. RIP, Boo Boo.

    • I think we darn near drove Alvin insane with the jazz trumpet section hiding in the polka band. What a riot those gigs were. I remember Erik trying to keep things from getting too out of hand.

  18. I knew Eric in college. Played in jazz band and wind ensemble together. Lost touch. His passing brings the past back real fast…RIP Boo

  19. We were saddened to hear of Erik’s sudden passing. Although Dan didn’t know he had cousins in Wisconsin till a few years ago, we are glad we came down and were able to meet Avanelle, Erik, John, Nils, Julie and all the Wisconsin relatives. Our heartfelt condolences to you all.

  20. Reading all the heartfelt comments above has made me feel a bit comforted at the loss of my friend and bandmate. BooBoo and I hadn’t performed together as much recently as in past years, but every gig with him was a special event. We first met at a church gig in De Pere when he was still at UWGB (I have more than a couple of years on him), and I am honored to have been his friend since.

    During breaks with Alvin’s band conversation always returned to his students in Milwaukee and later, Madison. He was so proud of all of you and be assured, you touched him deeply as he helped you along the path to adulthood. It was very important to him that many of you kept in touch with him long after graduation and included him in the events in your lives, large and small.

    A few years ago as our music friends were planning a tribute to our mentor Lovell Ives, several of our community asked me how to get in touch with Erik and both remarked that no one was more loved than BooBoo and he had to be there. Of course he made it and added to the “warm and fuzzies” felt by all.

    We were a great team on the horns, at least we thought so, and I will miss you terribly. BooBoo, as you rest in peace for eternity in the loving arms of our Father, may your family find comfort in knowing that you lived well, were loved, and will forever be safe.

    Sorry, Paul Grevsmuel, but I will always remember it as a “shit-eatin’ grin”.

    Sincerely,

    Brad Terrell

  21. I was so saddened to learn of Erik’s sudden passing. Until a few years ago, I had no idea I had a half-sister and three nephews and was so fortunate to be able to meet them in 2007. Now to learn of the death of one of them is heart-breaking. My love and prayers go out to my sister and her family at this very difficult time.

  22. Erik, you were our quiet next door neighbor. I will miss hearing your music come through the windows. I played baritone in high school and was hoping that you could help me get reaquainted with music someday. I was sitting on my swing Sunday night and I saw the lights on. I have sat on my swing in the evenings since you passed away and it makes me sad that your house is now dark. The tributes that your friends have shared has introduced me to a man that I really did not know. You were a great person to my son. I still have the Swedish knife that you brought home for him. That knife now has a different/special meaning. I told Gary that if I knew that you had a Swedish Airforce, we could have had a Norwegian Airforce, merged and had a Scandinavian Airline. RIP, you are missed.

  23. I live behind Erik’s house, across the runway and I too will miss the late night trumpet music. It always sounded so beautiful on a quiet summer night. Erik and I watched out for each other since we both lived alone. He was always there when I needed help… we moved a lot of furniture around my house. Last year I helped him upholster the RV seats, I’m so thankful he got to finish that airplane. Erik, you touched so many people in your 51 years. I don’t know what I will do without you, except to forever miss my good friend.

  24. I was asked to pass along this comment from Marc Brand, a former colleague at Madison East High School: He [Erik] was a great guy and as kahuana said did a great job of keeping the ’64 volvo running well for Sveska Vodka and beer. If you get a chance share my admiration for him and his devotion to his kids and his love for tinkering with all things mechanical, musical.

  25. I was shocked when Avie called me monday morning to tell me Erik has had a heartattack and had passed away. He was one of my younger cousins, and I am proud to have gotten him interested in aviation as a young kid. I was flying already when Erik was 3 years old and as a kid Erik would point at any airplane flying overhead and say “Carl-Olof, Carl-Olof”, whether it was a J-3 or a 727. Erik was always ready to help me whenever I needed help. He helped me with the basement and the roof of the house I live in to this day. He helped me with the trusses on the hangar that sits outside. I think of the many happy times we had together, my dad teaching him to play the accordion comes to mind. I think of another time when Erik was going along for a ride with me to Duluth in a Cessna 180 and just before takeoff, the prop hub blew off and about two gallons of oil covered the windshield, fuselage, and grass on the runway. It didn’t phase Erik one bit. He helped drag the plane back to the tiedown , clean the mess, and remove the propeller for shipping. The Cessna 180 still sits in the hangar, but with a new prop………I will miss you Cuz! ….. We’ll meet again someday. Carl-Olof

  26. Thank you for putting together this lovely post.

    I had aviation with Mr. Anderson and I remember how comfortable and entertaining he made that class for me as a freshman. Fortunately, our class was during 2nd hour so we got to stay 30 or so minutes longer each day (administrative time) to enjoy the flight simulator, watch “Airlines”, or build our own planes.

    I will always remember going for a ride in his plane when he asked something like, “Do you want to feel G-Forces?” and before I could answer he took the plane into a little quick dive.

    He was a great man and an incredible role model that will truly be missed. Thank you Mr. A.

  27. i am a sophmore at east. i am awestruck that the student have mad memorials. us student have left flowers in the entrance to the aviation room and have left little paper airplanes all oner that wing in memorial. it was our own way of saying goodbye and keeping the memory of mr. anderson alive.

  28. I first met Eric around 1972 through the Milwaukee Pops Youth Band. My dad, also named Hank, was the director of the Milwaukee Pops Youth Band and the band director at Frank Lloyd Wright where Eric Junior High School. Eric was a good trumpet player even back in Junior High and I got to know him pretty well through weekly band practices all the way through Junior High and High School and through the Milwaukee Pops Youth Band Camp held every summer at different Christian camps in Wisconsin. We always had way to much fun at band camp not only playing music, but also fishing, playing cards, participating in daily and nightly fun activities (like the water frolics, skit night, and councilor hunt night), and just hanging out. Although I haven’t kept in touch with Eric and haven’t seen him since the Milwaukee Pops 50th Anniversary Concert I am deeply saddened by Eric’s passing.

  29. So sorry to hear of the passing of our friend, Erik. What a guy….What a loss to many. We met Erik years ago as we watched him play the trumpet and sing along with Alvin’s polka band. Had many conversations with Erik and they were always bounding with love and concern for his many students over the years as well as musical and aviation interests. He lived a rare level of love and compassion for all he knew and was forever unending in his efforts to graciously impact the lives of others. He was a masterful musician and what a wicked horn duo playing alongside of Brad Terrell!! They were unmatched in hammering out gut wrenching notes unlike any I had ever heard in the polka industry over the last 30 years. A Teacher, an Artist, a Pilot, a Friend, but mostly a Man with the Heart of an Angel…….and the Angel is finally Home. We will miss him. Our condolences to his family.

  30. Clear Prop,

    We met while playing Jesus Christ Superstar in West Allis, Wisc over thirty years ago. I was immediately taken by you with that trumpet and those clogs. We shared a love of Swedish folk music and a short but sweet romance. Over the years you were always a very good friend to me, even when the others had all walked away. Kjell, you were a great encourager, always telling me that if I could dream it, I could make it happen. You were right. I never got the chance to go up with you in your beloved plane or hide in your bushes in Waunaukee, but you and I know that we will see each other again someday. Prayer is the most important tool to never be without.

    Love you

    Tami

  31. Heart broken is the only thing that comes to mind to say. Erik (we called him Boo-Boo in the day) and I were roommates for 3 years at UWGB (with Carl Allen for 2 of those). Our apartment in down-town Green Bay was the site of many, many gatherings of the SA crowd back then. People loved him – we always had some (or many) people around. He was a gentle person with a big heart. Although we drifted apart, as many do, he remains a large part of why my college life was so enjoyable. I’ve thought of him every day since I heard this horrible news. My best to Erik’s friends and family. He was a good man in a world sorely in need of more.

    Mark Fralick
    Houston TX

  32. I just learned of Erik’s passing away as the result of an internet search. Although a skilled music instructor, he would find the time to rehearse with our small group playing polka arrangements written by his former music professor Ooody Ives. It saddens me to know that someone so talented has been taken to a higher place at such a young age. My only regret is not having the opportunity to have spent more time with him.

    An old time music friend. Rhode Wanta

  33. I found out about Erik’s passing from Kevin Vaness at a church festival here in Green Bay. The news was stunning and terribly emotional. The more I thought about it the worse it felt. Like many here, I came to be good friends with Erik during the “glory years” at UWGB, when an amazingly large number of extraordinarily talented musicians passed through in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Erik and I played unending concerts and gigs together, including my 2 years with Alvin when we traveled all over, including Washington DC for a highly memorable and crazy couple of weeks.

    But the connections with Erik never stopped after that. I lived with his grandparents during my first teaching job in Wautoma, and then taught for years at his alma mater, West Allis Central HS, where he was still remembered by many staff members and band parents. His grandmother Beatrice was among the sweetest people I have ever met, and still have some recipes she insisted I have when I moved on to Indiana. Erik took my place in Kerry Dull’s band “Pyramid” after I moved on to medical school years ago, what a bunch of memories that band had as well…

    When I heard about the news, I dug out the pictures of Erik and I from Washington DC and remembered a time in my life when music and having fun were about all that mattered. Life was so big, so clear, and so full of promise during that time. What a great great person and talented musician he was, and what a loss this is. I will miss him terribly.

  34. I heard about Erik’s death for the first time just this past weekend. We met when the band I’m in, Torn Soul, opened for Johnny on Washday at O’Keefe’s House of Hamburg in Milwaukee on August 12, 2012. It was our first official gig, and when Johnny, Erick, and the guys took the stage after us, we were astounded at how fabulous they were. I’ll never forget Erik playing accordion and trumpet simultaneously. On behalf of Torn Soul, I’d like to say that our thoughts are with everyone who knew Erik well. We are so sorry to hear this.

    • Thanks for the comments…no doubt Erik and the guys would have remembered you all…I’m sure they were cheering you on.

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