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Bruce Erickson-citizen of Bozeman, Montana, the greater world, and the skies above, died on Nov. 18, 2015.
Bruce was born to Claude and Bernice Erickson in Havre, Montana on Dec. 1, 1949. While growing up in Livingston, with the Absaroka Mountains and Yellowstone River as his backyard, his adventurous spirit was nurtured to the fullest. Skiing was one of his first passions, where he learned and honed his skills at Bridger Bowl and was one of the few who were present at the opening day of Big Sky Resort. In addition to skiing, Bruce loved golf. As a young man, he played on the Park High School's first golf and ski teams. He graduated from Park High in 1968, venturing on to the University of Montana where he graduated in 1972 and later completed graduate work at Pacific Coast Banking School. Although for anyone who knew Bruce, his banking and professional life was defined less by his formal training and more by his zealous approach, captivating personality, and uniquely unorthodox and admirable style.
In 1971, he married Carolyn Pfohl, and she became the bedrock of this Montana entrepreneur and sportsman. She provided the foundation to Bruce's zeal! Together, as a team, they raised a family and built upon the family banking business, started by Bruce's father in Livingston, later to become American Bank of Montana. With a tinge of irony and self-deprecation, Bruce joked that were it not for Carolyn, he would have been content to tackle all of Montana's peaks on his skis, and as in all great stories-a kernel of truth undergirds the yarn.
Bruce's story-and it is a grand story-begins to parallel the story of Southwestern Montana itself. His father moved to Livingston in 1952, trading the views of Montana's high-line for the Absaroka Mountain peaks and grandeur of Paradise Valley. The bank that Claude started, and Bruce built, was to become a harbinger for all whom would trace these same steps, drawn to the outside beauty of Montana and the joy of its unique lifestyle.
What started in 1952 as Livingston State Bank evolved to First Security Bank in 1965 and then was transformed by Bruce after partnering with his father. In 1982, after a fun and knowledgeable partnership, he bought out his father and set his sights on expanding the bank. Bruce later renamed the bank to American Bank, and furthered his goals in helping the development of community small businesses and later became known as the bank to welcome all newcomers to both the Livingston and Bozeman communities. The small, independent, Montana bank grew into six branches throughout Montana.
The economic impact of Bruce's unyielding optimism cannot be overstated. With the unwavering support of Carolyn, his family and the bank, they became involved in nearly all of the philanthropic organizations within the community. He and Carolyn were a business team. Bruce, Carolyn and American Bank loved their community and contributed their heart and resources to a variety of organizations for over 35 years.
Beyond banking, Bruce's curiosity and innate restlessness defined his life by his hobbies and gregarious way of life. He was an incredible father and took every opportunity to pick his kids up from school and rarely missed a ski race, cheerleading event, tennis or golf tournament.
Bruce was a bundle of kinetic energy, and this was most pronounced in his love of machines. He had "the touch" with everything mechanical, and of course, anything that took flight. Bruce came alive at the mere mention of any plane. Bruce logged over 30,000 hours in prop planes, turboprops, jets, floatplanes, Huskies, and a variety of helicopters. In fact, Bruce's first flying lesson was at age 11. By age 16, he was flying on his own. Over the next 50 years that followed, he used his seat in the cockpit as a means to create opportunities in life and in business, shrinking the world and bringing some of it home to Montana. Never was Bruce more at peace in this world than when he soared above our mountains and rivers; one with the clouds, the eagles, and all others who seek to escape Earth's bounds. Today, he is at rest where he was always most at home.
Carolyn and Bruce raised two children, Tyler and Taylor, who remain in the Bozeman and Livingston communities. Both children share in his passion for adventure and continue with the local philanthropic efforts on behalf of the American Bank family. Taylor and her husband Jeremy recently welcomed Bruce's first grandchild, Axel Scott Wortman, on Oct. 13, 2015. Bruce loved every moment spent holding and welcoming Axel into the family.
Each man, father and brother's loss is painful for their family and friends. Bruce will be especially missed. A man of dreams – both inspired and attained. A servant of Bozeman – a miracle of growth and dynamism. A man with a spirit – so large that none whom met him forgot him, or were untouched by his gaze, his embrace, or his iron will. Bruce Erickson made his indelible, unforgettable, and inimitable mark on his friends, his family, his bank and the state he so deeply loved.
Bruce is preceded in death by his wife Carolyn (Pfohl) Erickson, his parents Claude R. Erickson and Bernice L. Hardesty Erickson. He is survived by his second wife Gail Erickson; his children Tyler Erickson and Taylor Wortman (Jeremy); grandson Axel Scott Wortman; and both of his sisters, Claudia J. Erickson and Sandra R. Erickson.
Bruce's celebration of life will be at 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on June 11, 2016, at The Warriors and Quiet Waters Center off of Springhill Road, 3733 Reece Creek Road, Belgrade.
In a true Bruce fashion, the family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to the Livingston Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation Inc. and/or Big Sky Youth Empowerment (BYEP.org).
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from May 7 to May 8, 2016