Bruce M Ericksen, Air Force Officer, Vietnam Veteran, died October 10th, 2023
Bruce Morkman Ericksen was born on Sep. 6, 1935, in Chicago, Ill., at Deaconess Lutheran Hospital, the eldest son of Pastor Fred Ericksen and his wife Henriette (Hendricksen) Ericksen. His parent’s families came from the west coast of Norway, Bergen and Bomlo. Both his parents chose a life of service to God and others, this example leading Bruce likewise to a life of service in the military, in faith and to his community.
Bruce graduated from Iowa State in 1957 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force. Early in his career as Signals intelligence officer he was involved in highly classified program based in Key West Florida monitoring Russian, Cuban activities during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His first overseas assignment was to southern Japan. He would later say, “As I worked hard to become fluent in French, German and Russian, the Air Force naturally assigned me to Japan.” By listening to NHK Japanese radio broadcasts, he became fluent in Japanese while there, starting a lifelong love of Japan and Japanese culture. Japanese friends would marvel at his beautiful, clear Japanese and the amazing ability to perfectly sing an almost endless number of Japanese traditional drinking songs.
While there he met a young schoolteacher, Donna Jean Brooks, who was instructing children at the air base. They fell in love and married shortly after. Bruce then did a tour in Vietnam and their son Brian was born after and then, Craig. He did a second assignment in Japan “listening to the sub races off of Kamchatka” at a small base on the farthest northern tip of Japan, and then an assignment in England. While in England he took the family on a trip to Norway, reconnecting with the family at Bomlo where his grandfather had come from, and for whom his grandson is named.
In 1977 he retired from the Air Force, working as a stockbroker, a power plant technician, a defense contractor, a Maryland state legislative aid and a US congressional staff member. Bruce said his most satisfying work though was as a state of Maryland home schoolteacher, where he enjoyed making a difference in the lives of injured, disabled, or troubled students.
In 1997 his wife Donna passed away from cancer. He joined a bereavement group after and met Constance (Connie) Ray, there from the passing of her beloved husband Bill and in 1999 they married. Together they shared an active life of travel, outdoor activities, spending time with friends and family. They traveled to Japan, Alaska, had a house at Blue Knob where they skied and enjoyed nature, finally moving to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to live in their dream home. Bruce was a huge reader of history, philosophy, politics, literature and was endlessly fascinated with meeting and learning from other people and cultures. He also had an almost unnatural ability to connect with, engage and calm wild or even dangerous animals. And at 75 years of age, Bruce did his first parachute jump.
Three small stories illustrate some of whom and what Bruce Ericksen was:
1. In Vietnam Bruce briefed pilots before they went out to fly combat missions. The pilots had received these briefings many times before and despite Bruce working hard to keep their attention, using every trick he had learned in Toastmasters, he struggled to keep their attention. In one of these briefings the door opened and in was carried a dirty, haggard pilot, just taken from a rescue mission. He said to the now fully alert room, “This man saved my life. If you want to live after ejecting, pay close attention.” This story was a mark of pride from Bruce’s Vietnam service.
2. After retiring from the Air Force, the family moved to Pasadena Maryland. Just after settling an event happened that shook the small community. Three young men shot into a local bar, killing a man, and wounding several others. The next day Bruce became involved when he talked to the young man who lived next door, Terry. Bruce made a connection with this troubled young man, encouraging him with advice and mentoring, despite Terry’s wild ways. When Bruce asked how he was, Terry confessed, “Bruce, I’ve done something terrible.” After listening Bruce asked Terry to pray with him and said Terry needed to turn himself in. He made this promise, “Terry, no matter how long this takes, I will stay with you through this thing.” He attended Terry’s trial and then for over a decade after, traveled hundreds of miles to visit him faithfully every week in jail. Both his sons remember going with Bruce on jail visits through their high school years. Bruce kept his promise, helping him long after Terry’s friends and even his family stopped visiting him.
3. The day of the Sept 11th attacks, Bruce got in his car and drove over to Fort Meade Maryland. This was the base he had retired from then almost 30 years before and he volunteered to return to service. Even at 66 years old he was willing to return to serve his nation once again.
Bruce died from age related causes. He was 88 years old. He is survived by his wife Connie Ericksen; his brothers, Gordon and Stuart; son’s Brian and Craig; his step-children Mark, Lauran, Sharon, Donna; daughter-in-law Sema and grandchild Christian Magnus; step-grandchildren Nikki and Taylor.
Friends and relatives are invited to attend the service, October 26th, 2023, 1 pm at Galilee Lutheran Church, 4652 Mountain Rd, Pasadena, Md. Bruce will be laid to rest at Crownsville Veteran’s Cemetery, 1122 Sunrise Beach Rd, Crownsville, Md. at 230 pm. There will be a meal and remembrance after at Galilee Lutheran Church hall from 3-5 PM. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be to Galilee Lutheran Church, a church Bruce loved and supported for many years.