John Richard Erlandson
1930 ~ 2022
Captain John Richard "Dick" Erlandson, age 92, died on September 05, 2022. Dick was born February 4th, 1930, in Gary, Indiana, the second of five children. He was taught by his parents - Arnold and Helen Erlandson to put family first; that included fulfilling his chores at his father’s dairy in Miller, Indiana.
While working in the dairy it is reputed that Dick drank the cream from the top of the milk bottles. After his fulfilling chores, Dick would head east to Miller Beach, near the famed Indiana Dunes on the south shore of Lake Michigan and there tear up the beach in his brother Charlie's custom dune buggy.
As early as high school years Dick worked in the steel mills in Gary, Indiana. After high school he hitchhiked to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota for his first two years of college. Thereafter he transferred to the University of Colorado Boulder until graduating with a degree in Pharmacy.
The call to adventure induced Dick to enter the Navy Aviation Officer Candidate program (AOC) at NAS Pensacola and eventual USN pilot training. After earning his wings of gold, Dick was to be assigned to an (AD-7) Douglas Skyraider squadron aboard the USS CVA-12 Hornet. In the mid-1950s the Hornet was assigned to the 7th Fleet cruising the western Pacific which provided Dick with no shortage of flying challenges. Toward the end of his USN career Dick was based at NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island and it was at Rhode Island that Dick met Babsie Cartwright of Englewood, NJ, his future wife of 66 years.
In the Spring of 1959 Dick separated from the active Navy and sought a flying career with Northwest Airlines. His date of hire at NWA was April 25, 1959. Dick’s initial hire duties included copilot on the DC-4, DC-6, DC-7 and thereafter expanded to include captain on the Lockheed Electra, Boeing 727, Boeing 720/320, the Douglas DC-10 and the classic Boeing 747. His NWA career lasted 31 years, the official retirement date being December 2007.
Throughout his flying career Dick contended with NWA labor strikes and fell back on his training in Pharmacy, working at a friend's pharmacy. He also bought a couple of horse farms from wince he acquired the name "Farmer Dick," in addition to his title Captain. He was devoted to his family and his church, Normandale Lutheran, where he began to grow his family spiritually.
Dick was by any definition a talented and busy fellow. He involved himself in airplane building, flying hang-gliders, scuba diving, hunting, smelting, golfing, sailing, snowmobiling, skiing, mountain climbing, choir singing, cooking, baking, gardening, carpentry, mechanic guy, secret shopper guy, apple-cider presser every fall, and all-around shenanigan instigator. With all the above, when getting a child involved, any child, he was at his best.
We would not want to understate the role Church and Christ had in John’s life. He was devoted to both family and faith, especially to Normandale Lutheran Church.
Dick was beloved by his wife, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and literally everyone he ever met. Dick is survived by Barb "Babs" Erlandson, son Jim, daughter Lynn Pauly, daughter Susan Breckner, son John, twelve grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
John Richard Erlandson is a name long remembered and respected by his airline colleagues, friends, and family. Many of RNPA’s members were privileged to share the cockpit with him.
(~ Erlandson Family and Bill Day)