Over the weekend, Arnold Erickson chose Flandreau as the place to become a Centenarian.
The Virginia man who was born here on June 16, 1919, had one key ingredient to make his 100th birthday something special: 85 or more area relatives, especially nieces and nephews, who gathered at the Japanese Garden Saturday for a party.
“I know the next generation, all of them, very well,” he said. “Family is always important, isn’t it?”
Erickson is a 1938 Egan High School graduate who worked on farms during his summers as a young man. He joined the 147th Field Artillery in Flandreau at the beginning of the World War II draft and was stationed for a time at Pearl Harbor, leaving 48 hours before it was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. Once war was declared, his convoy was sent to Darwin, Australia, a city that was demolished by Japanese bombs while he was there.
He ended up serving 40 months in the Army during the war, was commissioned as an officer when the Air Force was formed, retired from the Air Force in 1961 and five years later moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the U.S. Navy Department.
“I’ve been living away from here for 80 years. I’ve come back for reunions almost every year,” he said. “It’s nice to come back and visit my family. It’s enjoyable.”
Erickson is the youngest of 10 kids born to Robert and Kaia Erickson, who farmed in Moody County. The farm continues to be owned by family members, said his daughter, BJ Friedery who lives near her father in Springfield, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.
Erickson married Josephine Erickson – no relation – in 1945, a Jasper, Minn., girl he had met when he was 17. In addition to daughter Betty Jo, they have a son, James Erickson.
“When I was still in high school, I met the lady that became my wife,” the older Erickson said. He was on a threshing crew at the time, and she was helping feed workers lunch. “I used to take her roller skating and eventually dancing. We ended up getting engaged and married.”
She died in 2005 after the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
Friedery said her dad has always been positive and encouraging.
“He’s really our biggest cheerleader.”
Her brother is thankful for the years of memories he and his family, including two grown sons, have been able to enjoy with his father. “I’m extremely grateful that we’ve had all these years together,” he said. “It’s wonderful that he’s been here so long.”
Erickson lives on his own in a retirement community of about 2,000 residents, using a scooter to get around the complex, and said one of the reasons he may have stayed healthy as he has aged is because he works out at the gym on machines six times a week. He is able to walk with a walker. He also has a couple of glasses of wine before dinner, on occasion. Otherwise, his daily routine includes reading both the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, and reading books on his Kindle, which has 500 titles that he already has read.
His advice for longevity?
“Exercise and be engaged in what’s going on in the world,” he said. “A lot of things make me happy, engaging with people, engaging with family. I still play poker. I’m still actively investing in the stock market.”