Thomas Erdmann, 84, concluded his earthly journey of love, adventure, and service to pass into eternal life Friday, May 28th.
Our sadness and loss are immense, but outweighed by our gratitude for a life well-lived by a modest man of extraordinary character, compassion, and achievement.
He was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 1936 to Dr. Norman and Mrs. Marianne Erdmann, the oldest of three siblings.
At the age of 14, he earned his Eagle Scout badge and was initiated into the Order of the Arrow. His connection with Scouting would endure with later service as Scoutmaster, District Commissioner, and “Big Bear.”
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1955, completed Officer’s Candidate School in 1956 to become the youngest commissioned officer in the Army, and was honorably discharged in 1958 as an artillery officer with the rank of First Lieutenant.
After his service, he studied chemistry at Northwestern University and met the love of his life over a lab centrifuge. He got the degree and the girl in 1961, graduating with a B.A. in chemistry and starting his blissful 59-and-a-half-year marriage to Gale Holst.
Work for Goodbody & Co. followed as a broker on the New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee stock exchanges, supporting the new family while Gale attended physical therapy school. After several years of success as a registered representative, he applied to and was accepted by Marquette University Law School.
While at Marquette, he was a member of the Law Review (with four published articles) and the Legal Honor Society, and he received the Marquette Law Review Award, Thomas Moore Academic Scholarship, and the Bureau of National Affairs Award.
After graduation, admission to the Wisconsin and Minnesota bars, and the birth of his son, the family moved to Red Wing. He joined the firm that would become Holst, Vogel, Erdmann, and Vogel, and for more than 30 years devoted himself to the practice of law and the community of Red Wing.
His early years in town were punctuated by two further momentous events: the birth of his daughter, and his award as one of the Jaycee’s Ten Outstanding Young Men of Minnesota.
The law was more than his life’s work. It was his calling and his passion. It allowed him to do what he loved most: fix problems, find answers, bring comfort, and make things better.
On paper, his focus was on estates, trusts, tax, family law, and business. In practice, his focus was entirely on service to his clients – understanding their lives, their struggles, their hopes, and how he could use his talent and compassion to bring forth a just and positive result. His practice was old-school, unpretentious, and a perfect fit for the city – phone calls instead of lawsuits, fairness instead of profit, kitchen tables instead of conference rooms, rubber boots in a farm field instead of patent leather shoes at a desk.
Outside the office, he advanced the law as part of the Governor’s Judicial Selection Committee and as an instructor in commercial law for the American Institute of Banking.
He gave tirelessly to the Red Wing community through countless civic engagements, including School Board attorney, legal advisor to the Jaycees, Kiwanis director and committee chair, attorney for the construction of Jordan Towers I and II, YMCA board of trustees and fund captain, record-setting United Way co-chair, member and scholarship judge for the Elks, member of the board of directors of Norwest Bank and the Red Wing Country Club, Goodhue County Republican Committee member and convention chair, county liaison for Congressman Al Quie, and as a longtime member of the Minnesota Heart Association, Wildlife League, and Ducks Unlimited.
For decades, his spiritual home was First Lutheran Church, where he chaired the organ fund drive, served as legal advisor to the building committee and church council, ushered, and worked as a youth counselor.
His “retirement” wasn’t much so, as he was never inclined to sit still. It included six years as a Disney World cast member, spreading his brand of personable magic in a bright yellow shirt, as a tram driver and as the resident adorable guy behind the counter at Candy Cauldron.
It is a remarkable resume of a man who gave so much of himself in service. But above accomplishments and awards, we celebrate the eternally devoted husband, father, and friend we were fortunate enough to share for a lifetime. Lover of dogs, Disney, golf, and Grand Teton. Conveyor of impish smiles. Keeper of Packers’ season tickets and Vince Lombardi’s poker table. Solver of crises large and small. Traveler of great journeys across the world. Hunter, fisher, mechanic, weed-removal enthusiast. Seeker of the best in people, places, and things. Man of faith in action.
His spirit is carried on by his wife, Gale; son James and wife Libby; daughter Kathryn (Beall), husband Chip, and grandchildren Madison and Aidan; and nephew Sean Dougherty, wife Jamie, and family.
Preceded in death by his parents, brother Robert, and sister Judith (Dougherty).
Visitation will be at 10:00 Tuesday, June 8th at First Lutheran Church in Red Wing. Memorial service to follow at 11:00. Service will also be streamed online on the church’s website: www.firstlutheranrw.com. Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.mahnfamilyfuneralhome.com.
Donations preferred in lieu of flowers, to Ducks Unlimited or the Mayo Clinic. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.