In Memory of

Captain Donald E. Erickson
August 7, 1927 – March 26, 2012
60 Year Member - International Shipmasters’ Association
Pennant No. 9570


Initiated on March 18, 1952 (Twin Ports Lodge No. 12)
Transferred to Detroit Lodge No. 7 on March 25, 1958
Lodge 1st Vice President
– 1961 & 1962
Lodge President
Lodge Marshal – 1966
Lodge Sentinel – 1968
Grand Lodge President – 1970
Recipient of Lewis Ludington Award – 1994
Capt. Don Erickson aboard his beloved William Clay Ford in 1976 (photo by Bill Hoey)

Detroit Lodge No. 7 lost its senior member on Monday, March 26, 2012 when Captain Don Erickson passed away at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn at the age of 84. 

Born in Superior, Wisconsin on August 7, 1927, Don began sailing at age 15 and joined the Navy a year later during World War II.  While serving in the Pacific theater, he operated an assortment of landing craft, minesweepers and patrol boats and was awarded the Bronze Star.  After the war, Don began working for the Ford Marine Division, eventually working his way up to become Captain of the M/V Henry Ford II in 1962.  At the time, he was one of the youngest captains on the Great Lakes.

Although he sailed on most vessels in the Ford fleet, Don spent the bulk of his career aboard the William Clay Ford.  After overseeing the final months of the vessel's construction at the Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse, he was aboard as 2nd Mate when it was launched in May of 1953.  31 years later, he was aboard as Captain when the William Clay Ford laid up for the final time on December 14, 1984.  
In 1986, after spending 24 years as Captain, Don retired from the Ford Motor Company (Rouge Steel) fleet. 

On April 3, 1991 the pilothouse of the William Clay Ford was moved by barge and placed on a specially built foundation at the Dossin Museum for display facing the Detroit River as a fully equipped pilot house.  For many of the following years, Don would occasionally serve as a volunteer in the pilothouse at Dossin Museum and talk about his days aboard the William Clay Ford.  

One of the most notable events of his career occurred on the evening of November 10, 1975, when the Edmund Fitzgerald disappeared on Lake Superior.  After hearing reports of the Fitzgerald's disappearance, Capt. Erickson decided to leave safe anchorage in Whitefish Bay and head out on storm-ravaged Lake Superior to search for possible survivors.  Because of the bravery and valor demonstrated that night by Captain Erickson and his crew, they were presented with many accolades including a plaque bestowed upon them by the Great Lakes Maritime Institute recognizing their role in the search for the Edmund Fitzgerald

Many years would pass before Capt. Erickson was comfortable talking about the events of November 10, 1975.  In October of 2011, he reluctantly agreed to speak about the Fitzgerald at a fundraiser for the Harsens Island Historical Society.  Fortunately, the presentation has been captured on video. 

In 1970, with Detroit Lodge No. 7 hosting the Grand Lodge Convention at the Detroit Hilton (Statler) Hotel, Capt. Erickson was elected to the office of Grand President.  He held the office with great pride, and was equally proud of the I.S.M.A. and its accomplishments.  Through the years, he remained a strong advocate of the organization.  He was always attentive to the lodge ritual and following the proper rules of order.  Thus, the lodge would often look for his guidance when procedural or constitutional questions arose.   

Captain Erickson is survived by his wife, Joyce, and son Eric, who is also a member of Detroit Lodge No. 7.

    Video of Capt. Erickson in 2003          Funeral Home Obituary            Sample of 2011 Harsens Island Presentation

1-Hour video narrated by Bill Hoey showing the final trip of the William Clay Ford in December of 1984.

88th Annual Dinner Dance of Detroit Lodge No. 7 - January 10, 1969
Latin Quarters on East Grand Boulevard
Don Erickson is standing on the far right.
Joyce Erickson is kneeling on the far right. 

1970 I.S.M.A. Grand Lodge Convention
Detroit Hilton Hotel (aka Statler Hotel) January 28, 1970
Incoming Grand Lodge President Don Erickson is seated front & center.

At an ISMA meeting at Dossin Museum in 1988

Eric & Don Erickson at the
Lodge 7 Christmas Party in 1988

At the Gaelic Tugboat Company office in May of 2007.
 Left to Right:  PGP Don Erickson, PGP Bill Hoey,
PGP Bill Cline, and Roger Stahl.

(Photo courtesy of Bill Hoey)
At Dossin Museum in the early 1990s

Capt. Erickson standing in the front
window of the William Clay Ford

(Photo courtesy of Bill Hoey)
Don Erickson taking his turn at the wheel of the Diamond Belle on Memorial Day weekend 2009.  Also in the photo is Capt. Mike Nicholls on the left and narrator Ken Borg.

Elmer Dunn & Don Erickson on April 2, 2011

Don Erickson and Sam Buchanan at a lodge meeting on March 12, 2011

Past Grand Presidents Ron Ingram, Don Erickson,
and George Haynes - March 12, 2011



On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, during the regular membership meeting of Detroit Lodge No. 7 at Mariners'
Church, a memorial service was held in honor of Captain Erickson.  Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Picture Board of various photos
Fr. Paul Innes officiates
Arlene Earl remembers Capt. Erickson

Linda Washburn recites a poem
Fr. Bob Schikora remembers Don

Paul Jagenow reads eulogy
 written by Ken Gerasimos
8Fr. Paul Innes reads the Sailor's 23rd Psalm. 10
Honor Guard Assembled on the altar
15 Sailor's 23rd Psalm
The Lord is my pilot; I shall not drift.
He lights me across the dark waters.
He steers me through the deep channels.
He keeps my log. He guides me by the
Star of Holiness for His Name's sake.
As I sail through the storms and tempests
of life I will dread no danger; for You are
near me; Your love and care shelter me.
You prepare a haven before me in the
Homeland of Eternity; You quieten the waves
with oil; my ship rides calmly. 
Surely sunlight and starlight shall be with
me wherever I sail, and at the end of my
voyaging I shall rest in the port of my God.


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All Rights Reserved