Longtime Lake Shore farmer Vinton Erickson dies at 84

Site now is a development

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

Updated: September 24, 2013, 5:47 PM

 

Longtime farmer Vinton Erickson, whose family kept acreage and orchards in Lake Shore blooming for more than a century, died Sunday.

Erickson was 84. He had been in a care center for almost two years.

Erickson was born on Dec. 25, 1928, in the family home at Lake Shore Avenue and Northwest 106th Street. The house stood there for more than 110 years until the landmark was demolished in 2012 as part of a development project.

Vinton started farming early, helping his father and his grandfather.

Vinton married Helen Zimmerly in 1953 and they became the third generation to operate the farm.

“We would have been married 60 years on Oct. 16,” Helen Erickson said.

Vinton and Helen Erickson raised five children on the farm, but there were a lot more kids than that on the property over the years.

“All the neighbor kids played at our place,” Helen recalled.

Lots of them worked there, too, earning money picking crops. And some moved up the job ladder, advancing “from picking berries to driving trucks,” Helen Erickson said.

The man who now is in charge of their development project worked on the farm as a boy, she said.

“A lot of them appreciated the jobs,” Helen Erickson said. It provided money for school clothes, as well as purchases with a bit more impact.

“A girl showed me that she got new contact lenses,” said Helen Erickson, who still lives with family on the original acreage.

But from her perspective, “the work experience was most important. I don’t think people give kids enough responsibility at a young enough age anymore.”

In addition to selling fresh produce in their farm store, the Ericksons also provided agricultural guidance. After the farmland was cleared for a 50-acre development, a neighbor noted that his own garden would follow the Ericksons’ timetable: “When they trimmed their raspberries, I trimmed mine.”

Erickson graduated from Vancouver High School in 1948. He spent two years in the U.S. Army, serving with the 82nd Airborne.

His Army hitch was the only two years Erickson didn’t live in the family home, until he moved into the care facility in 2012.

Erickson took some of his military experiences home with him, by the way. The former Army paratrooper made 10 sky dives in 2008 to run his lifetime total to 50 jumps.

While her husband had several other hobbies, “his favorite thing was going to a meeting,” Helen said. “He enjoyed meeting people.”

Erickson was president of the Clark-Cowlitz Farm Bureau for 12 years.

It was particularly hard for family members and friends when dementia robbed Erickson of his ability to laugh and joke with them, Helen Erickson said.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Evangelical Church, 4120 N.E. St. Johns Blvd., where Erickson had served as a trustee and an usher.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.