After 18 years on the Grantsburg School Board, Russ Erickson is making his leave and opening the door for a younger generation to come in and have their opportunity to make memories with the board as he did. He attended his last school board meeting as a board member on April 11 where the rest of the board held a farewell recognition, thanking him for his service and providing some delicious snacks and a beautiful clock as a gift.
If 18 years with the district as a school board member wasn’t enough, Erickson had been a part of the Grantsburg school district for 69 years, even before becoming a school board member. It all began when he was a student of the school district, beginning his schooling at the North Fork School just outside of Alpha from 1945-1953 (grades 1-8). He then attended Grantsburg High School for grades 9-12 and graduated in 1957.
He then attended Polk County Teacher’s College for two years and taught at the foremer Cushing School from 1960-61. He continued to his education at UW-Superior, majoring in Education with a minor in Sociology, earning his degree in 1963. In order to obtain his master’s degree from UW-Superior, it took four summers of driving back and forth every day with Paul Bergman and a few other friends. They would pass the time playing cards in the backseat during the ride.
After receiving his master’s degree, Erickson got an offer to go work at Inver Grove Heights school, but Merlin Johnson was the one to talk him out of that job telling him, “You’re not a city boy, Russ.” Instead, while sitting at Johnson’s table, he offered him a job at the Grantsburg School District, and so began his 36-year career working at the district.
He began teaching 6th grade for a year, and then moved on to junior high, teaching the same class for three years straight. He then taught junior high for 10 years before making his way to the elementary school to teach fifth grade. Erickson taught fifth grade until he retired in 1999.
After retiring, Erickson moved to Lake City, Minn., for two years, but then quickly made his way back to Grantsburg and got back to working for the school district on the grounds crew and began to announce for the high school baseball games. It wasn’t too long after that when Stan Marczak began to encourage him to run for the school board.
When he was elected to the school board in 2004, Erickson had to give up his announcing and grounds crew work, and then faithfully served on the board for 18 years.
Previous superintendent Joni Burgin once said, “He not only wears Pirate Purple, Russ bleeds purple.”
Erickson thanked the board and said, “I had a wonderful time at the Grantsburg School District. I met lots of interesting friends and worked with a lot of people. I had a lot of students over the years, in fact three of the board members here I had as students- Jason, David (who passed away recently due to a car accident), and Bryan, years ago. It’s been a good time continuing to work and associate with them.”
He stated that the school district has continued to be wonderful to him, and it will certainly be a change to no longer have a hold in the district. He told superintendent Joshua Watt that he will always be around to help out when needed, and he doesn’t know who they have lined up for announcers for baseball or softball, but he would certainly be interested in that again!
“It’s been a wonderful time with all of the board members, got to know them well, and with the new ones coming in now I wish them well,” Erickson said.
Erickson mentioned that he will always stay up to date on what the board is doing and wants to keep an eye on the referendum now that it has passed. He looks forward to seeing where everything will go from here with the board, the new members, and the referendum, and says that he will always be around if ever help is needed.
“Thank you to each of you that played a part in my life,” Erickson said in respinse to the gifts and accolades. “I’ve enjoyed each one of you, working with you. Everyone’s been very cooperative and helpful, so I’m looking forward now to the years that lie ahead.”