In April 1945, the train carrying the body of President Franklin Roosevelt moved slowly down the tracks from Warm Springs, Georgia on its way to the Nation’s Capitol. Thousands of mourners lined the pathway to wave goodbye to their beloved leader. A reporter went up to one of the men waving softly while tears moved slowly down his checks. “Did you know the President?” the reporter inquired. “No” responded the man. “But he knew me.”
What a remarkable tribute.
Today, we celebrate the life of another great who truly knew us.
For some thirty-eight years, Roger Erickson with his partner, Charlie Boone, dominated the airwaves with America’s most humorous and delightful morning show on WCCO radio. It was always fresh and tasteful. There was no place for vulgarity or self-promotion. No, it was about the character of Minnesota: hard work, honesty, respect for others, and community. We were all neighbors in the Minnesota of Boone & Erickson; farmers, doctors, teachers, plumbers – even politicians – were just neighbors and no one more important than another. Nor was anyone immune to being the subject of wholesome humor.
Susan and I were blessed to share in Roger’s life on numerous occasions. On one, we invited the show to be aired from the Governor’s Residence. At 4 a.m. we stumbled down the stairs in our robes only to be greeted by the banter and laughter of Roger and Charlie. And this was before we had our coffee.
But that is the way it was for nearly four decades. Morning became a time for joy commencing with the Good Morning song. We all enjoyed our breakfast while Boone and Erickson took us through their adventures at Minnesota Hospital or the Lutefisk Lament. And who could turn the announcement of school closings into a major source of humor and delight. That was sheer artistry.
When we received word that Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia would be visiting Minnesota, Susan and her staff went about planning the reception. The goal was to balance the formality and protocol of a royal visit with the warm hospitality of Minnesota.
This included the University of Minnesota Marching Band to greet the royal couple outside the Residence and a garden covered with a white tent and tables with formal settings to accommodate over 300 guests. It was an absolutely beautiful setting.
But the key was to set the tone and who better to serve as Master of Ceremonies than Roger Erickson. He was perfect with his light and warm humor and his remarkable ability to make everyone feel comfortable.
So comfortable, in fact, that the King leaned over to Susan and asked if he should speak. Susan’s response was enthusiastically positive. Than the rather shy King inquired about what he should say. Her response was simple. “Anything you say, they will love.”
What is of special note here is that we were informed by the Swedish advance team that the King would not speak and they were quite emphatic about that.
My personal belief is that Roger was so successful in creating a welcoming and warm environment that the King was moved to verbally participate.
But that was Roger Erickson. Maybe not all Minnesotans personally knew him but it is certain that he knew us and we are all richer for it.