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Herbert “Rick” Erikson, a World War II Veteran and long-time resident of Watertown, MA passed to the Lord peacefully while surrounded by family on Sept 14, 2023 at the age of 97. Rick was born on March 25, 1926 in Medford, MA and was the second youngest of six children raised lovingly by Berndt and Edla Erikson. Herbie, as he was known by his family, had a wonderful childhood that allowed him to establish strong Finnish roots filled with family, friendship, faith and fun. He graduated from Medford High School in 1943. It was during high school that his friends gave him the nickname “Rick” as they insisted that he needed an alternative to Herbie. Upon graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned as a signalman on the USS Lewis where he served our nation valiantly during World War II as his ship escorted primary aircraft carriers to into fighting zones. His role as a signalman was to use flags and codes to provide primary communications for the Pacific Command. His service in the Navy took him through the Panama Canal, and to such strategic locations as Guam, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Philippines, and China and ultimately back home to San Diego, CA. One of the most memorable stories from his military service was surviving a direct hit on the ship by a typhoon. Rick recalled the typhoon hit as exhilarating even though it was a harrowing experience that required clinging to the ship for life.
While serving in the Pacific, a mutual friend introduced him via a letter to Betty Clahane from Belmont, MA. Although they never met, Betty wrote letters of support to Rick while he served in the war. They had their first date when he returned from the war and married soon after at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Belmont, MA.
While settling down and starting their family, Rick leveraged the GI bill to pursue his education and ultimately obtained three degrees, an associate degree in engineering, a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and a bachelor’s degree in engineering and management from Northeastern University. Upon graduation he embarked on a long and successful engineering career for major companies such as Raytheon and Polaroid. One of his most memorable engineering accomplishments was designing a switch for the Apollo Lunar Module.
Betty and Rick had four children, Edward, Deborah, Richard, and Carol, whom they raised in Watertown, MA. While working full time as an engineer, Rick always put family, friends, and neighbors first. Rick’s children have wonderful memories of fun times with neighborhood families on Standish Road, camping trips, kayaking, fishing, beach days, and many fun times at home playing ping pong and bumper pool and spending local time in the community. The Erikson family get togethers were also a regular occurrence with his brothers and sisters and their families, ensuring the strong Finnish roots were planted for generations to come.
It was during these years that Rick began to establish his reputation as the best neighbor of all time. If you were new to the neighborhood, he would greet you with a bottle of wine. If your house needed an update, he would volunteer to wallpaper the walls, build a deck, plant a garden, or paint your ceilings or walls. All skills that he had perfected through his work on the family home on Standish Road. Or if you were just a person in need of someone to welcome you as a friend then Rick was your man!
Rick instilled in his children faith in the Lord, a strong sense of service to the country, care for all people, and perseverance through life trials. He lived by these values and demonstrated their importance throughout his life ensuring that these life lessons have been deeply engrained as a part of the fiber of his children and grandchildren.
In his later years, Rick continued to inspire all of us with his faith, strength, hope, and love. He cared lovingly and patiently for Betty during her illness and final days. He made friends with all his neighbors on Stoneleigh Road and could be found shoveling the neighbor’s driveways when needed. He continued to perfect his handyman skills throughout his 80s and 90s to meticulously maintain his home on Stoneleigh Road. He was a regular on Catholic TV, sharing both his faith and his love of our nation and earning the nickname “Mr. Catholic TV”. He continued swimming daily well into his 80’s and lived independently at home in Watertown until a few months before his 97th birthday. He was so proud of the legacy of faith and service that he had instilled on his children and grandchildren. That pride is so clear in every family photo that we have over the past decades. His ability to make new friends and positively influence others and enjoy happy hours with friends was never more apparent than when he transitioned to his new home at the Atria assisted living community in Newburyport earlier this year.
In his final days, he shared his message of “Never Give Up, Be Strong”, “Believe in Jesus”, and “Love You Forever” with his family and friends who were fortunate to be by his side. While his legacy will live on forever, the void in our hearts as he moves onto Heaven will never be filled. We are forever grateful for the love, support, and friendship you have provided Rick Erikson through the years and have comfort knowing there is an angel and hero shining down on us.
Rick was greeted in Heaven by his beloved wife, Betty Joyce (Clahane) Erikson, his son Edward Leonard Erikson, and his granddaughter Carol Elizabeth Plumer. He is survived by his loving children Deborah Plumer and her husband Lawrence of Byfield, Rev. Richard Erikson (Chaplain, Brigadier General USAF, Retired) of Clearwater, FL, Carol Erikson and her husband Joaquin Hernandez of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. And he will always be remembered and cherished by his loving grandchildren Lieutenant Commander Kevin Edward Plumer, USN and his wife Rachel, Jason Taylor Plumer and his partner Sharna Miller, Richard “Ricky” Joaquin Hernandez, and Elizabeth Grace Hernandez.
A visitation will be held on Thursday September 21, from 11 AM to 12 Noon in the Church of St. Luke, 132 Lexington St. Belmont followed by a Funeral Mass at 12 Noon. Relatives and friends are kindly invited. Interment will follow at Mount Auburn Cemetery with military honors from the US Navy Honor Guard.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Rick’s honor may be made to Catholic TV, PO Box 9196 Watertown MA 02472 or at www.catholictv.org or to Honor Flight New England PO Box 16287 Hooksett, NH 03106 or at www.honorflightnewengland.org
PO Box 9196, 34 Chestnut St., Watertown MA 02472