Kenneth Ray (Billy) (Pinky) Erickson
Born: May 9, 1927 as Kenneth Ray Erickson to Melvin and Katie Erickson.
Katie nicknamed him Billy when he was about 3 years old, and it stuck with him for life. Billy used to caddie at Hill Crest Golf Course when he was about 12 years old. He got sun burnt a lot and would turn pink. The guys at the course nicknamed him (Pinky). Many of his friends knew him by that name. Billy started working at Hormel when he was 15 years old. He graduated from Austin High School in 1945. He joined the Navy right out of high School as 3rd Class Petty Officer and served in Pearl Harbor and Guam. He came back from Service and enrolled at Austin Junior College. Billy played football (quarterback) and basketball in 1948-49. He led the basketball team to an undefeated season and Conference Champions. While attending college he returned to work full time at Hormel.
Billy married Janice Syverson in 1951 and they had 43 wonderful years of marriage. Jan died of cancer in 1994. In Billy’s career he played amateur basketball (played against the Harlem Globetrotters 3 times). He played handball, racquetball, and tennis and was an all around good athlete, but golf was his passion.
Billy won two Austin City Opens and competed in many numerous area and state events, including the Minnesota Open Championship. He played against many notable golfers including Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Walter Hagen. He could often be seen at the park with his dog practicing his short game. Often times friends would see him and ask for a golf lesson. He taught many of us, including Jon Chaffee (who played on the PGA circuit for 3 years), Margo Anderson (Austin CC Women’s Club Championship for years), Susan Erickson (Ramsey Golf Club Champion for many years).
Billy and Susan married in 1998. They enjoyed traveling on one day outings to casinos and movies, and enjoyed a meal out together. Billy’s health and bad back kept him from playing golf in his final years of life. He was a great story teller and many times shared his experiences caddying for Jon Chaffee as he qualified for the PGA Tour and also hanging out with Brandel Chamblee (now on the golf channel). Brandel introduced Billy to his first burritos. Besides Brandel, Billy knew Wally Ulrich (arguably the best amateur golfer out of Austin), and Tom Lehman. Chamblee and Lehman would often make a point of greeting Billy when they would see him at a tournament. Billy was everyone’s friends and will be sadly missed.
Billy listed his accomplishments as “having many friends, trying to do the right things in life and loving his brothers and sister”. He also stated how blessed his life was with Janice and Susan. He said “I love them so much, I thank God for having them in my life”.
Billy is survived by his wife, Susan, and sister-in-laws Shirley and Darlene Erickson. Preceded in death by his parents and wife Janice, brothers Russel, Roland, Robert, Donald and sister Nancy.
Billy donated his body to the Mayo Clinic. A celebration of life with family and invited friends is pending. A memorial fund has been set up at Accentra Credit Union in Austin, MN under “Kenneth Erickson Memorial”. Funds will be used to plant a tree and plaque at Meadow Greens.
Billy passed away peacefully on May 18, 2021 at his home.