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HUDSON, Wis. -- In what family members are calling an "act of love" between two soul mates for 60 years, Claire and Betty Erickson died in their home here from what police call an apparent murder-suicide, the Pioneer Press reported. Claire Erickson was the founder of the 60-unit Freedom Value Centers convenience store chain.
Betty Erickson, 81, suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and Claire Erickson hadn't been feeling well recently, according to son David Erickson, president of the company. Claire Erickson also worried his wife would have to live in a nursing home if anything happened to him, according to the report.
"I have no doubt what he did was out of love for the three of us siblings," David Erickson told the paper. "I think he was just tired and knew her situation wasn't going to get any better."
Well-known in the convenience industry, Claire was a "fair, strong leader," who was hardworking, had strong family values and was "a genuine caring person," Gary Vander Vorst, executive vice president and CFO of Freedom Valu, who worked with Claire Erickson for 35 years, told CSNews Online.
"Claire had an exceptional business acumen and was committed to the business and the associates," he said, adding his commitment stretched to the family business' core values of honesty trust and family. "Claire was very, very committed to his family. There was nothing more important to him."
Claire Erickson also enjoyed golfing, skiing, hunting and fishing, but nothing compared to spending time with his family, according to Vander Vorst.
Daughter Mimi Kron and her husband, Jim, found the couple in their bed, wearing pajamas and appearing to be asleep. They looked peaceful, David Erickson told the paper, adding he assumed his father shot his mother, but police would not confirm those details with the paper.
The couple had returned Monday to their home from Florida, where they typically spent about half the year, the report stated. While in Florida, Claire Erickson told the family he was not feeling well and had been experiencing vertigo for the past several weeks, David Erickson told the Pioneer Press.
Betty Erickson suffered from Alzheimer's for two and one-half years, and while the disease had not progressed to being severe, it troubled her husband, according to the report.
"In Florida, he said, 'You know, if something ever happens to me, your mother will have to go into a home, because she cannot take care of herself,'" David Erickson told the paper. "I wish he would have given us the opportunity to take care of both of them."
The congregation at Bethel Lutheran Church, where the Erickson’s were longtime members and Betty Erickson often volunteered, was in shock, Rev. Dennis Nelson told the paper.
"They were just solid citizens and good folks," said Nelson. "No one in the world anticipated this would happen."
In addition to son David Erickson and daughter Kron, the couple is survived by daughter Kristi Kampmeyer, the report stated.
"We still can't quite comprehend or believe it," said David Erickson of his parents' deaths. "But we'll get through it. Our family's pretty strong."
A service will take place 11 a.m. Monday at Bethel Lutheran Highlands Church in Hudson. Visitation will be one hour before the service at the church and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at O'Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson.
-- Erickson Oil/Freedom Valu Center C-store Founder, Wife Dead