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Rudolph A. Erickson, age 76, of Wilson, Wis., died at his home on Thursday, October 2, 2014, after a short illness.

Rudy was born January 3, 1938, to Rudolph W. and Dorothy L. (Heisterkamp) Erickson in Evergreen Township near Spooner, Wis. He graduated from Spooner High School in 1955. Rudy enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison at age 17 and graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science. He completed a master’s degree in animal science at UW-Madison in 1969.

Rudy was joined in marriage to Martha Ann Prem of Plain, Wis., on February 20, 1960, at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Rudy served as First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and was stationed at various army bases, including Fort Knox, Kentucky.

After being discharged in 1962, Rudy was employed as a fieldman for Central Livestock Association for four years, and later served as the interim UW-Extension agriculture agent and the interim 4-H agent in Dunn County for two years. In 1969, Rudy was hired as the farm manager of the UW-River Falls lab farms, a position he held for 27 years until his retirement in 1996.

While at UW-River Falls, Rudy also held a part-time appointment as a UW-Extension livestock specialist. In that role, Rudy judged numerous county fair livestock and carcass shows, taught sheep clinics around the state, was a sheep shearing instructor for many years, and judged state fair wool and shearing contests.

Rudy had a life-long passion for sheep, starting when he was a member of the Evergreen Valley 4-H Club and later as a Spooner FFA member. During high school, he worked at the UW Spooner Agricultural Research Station when the first Targhee sheep were introduced into Wisconsin. After buying his own farm, Rudy purchased a flock of sheep, which included the two rams that he had helped unload at the Spooner railroad yard for the research station. Rudy continued raising sheep for more than 60 years, selling the last of his flock in the fall of 2010.

Along with raising sheep, Rudy had a herd of Polled Hereford cattle from the early 1960s to the present, along with having a few pigs, chickens, rabbits, geese, pheasants, cats and border collies.

Over the years, Rudy was involved with the following sheep organizations, often serving as an officer or board member: National Targhee Sheep Association, Wisconsin Targhee Sheep Association, Wisconsin Columbia Sheep Association, Wisconsin Hampshire Sheep Association, Wisconsin Sheep Producers Association, Indianhead Sheep Association, and Mid-States Wool Cooperative.

He also was active in the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers, Wisconsin Polled Hereford Association, Indianhead Polled Hereford Association, Wisconsin Junior Livestock Shows, St. Croix Valley Bull Test Station, St. Croix County Fair Association, St. Croix Farm Bureau and Glenwood City FFA Alumni.

Rudy also was involved in his local community, serving on the Spring Valley School Board, CESA 11, St. Bridget Catholic Church Finance Council and American Legion Matson-Miller Post 330.

Rudy is survived by his wife of 54 years, Martha; his children Lorry Ann Erickson (Jack Potter) of Warrens, Wis., Sheri Ann Erickson and Mark A. (Tammy) Erickson, both of Wilson, Wis.; his grandchildren Mitchell (Elizabeth) Erickson of River Falls, Wis., Michael Erickson of Glenwood City, Wis., and Madeline Erickson of Wilson, Wis.; his sister Sandra Rathmann of Brooklyn Park, Minn.; his brother Ronald (Bernie) Erickson of Greensboro, N.C., and his sister-in-law Jan Erickson of Shell Lake, Wis.

He is further survived by his brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law: Edward (Mary) Prem, Joseph (Karen) Prem, Anthony (Randeen) Prem, Catherine (Lawrence) McDonald, Michael (Mary) Prem, Dorothy (David) Gorman, Andrew (Rosemary) Prem, and William (Sandra) Prem, and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his infant daughter, Pamela Lynn; his parents; brother Rodger Erickson; sister Karen Erickson; his father-in-law and mother-in-law Joseph and Catherine (Lehner) Prem; and his sister-in-law and brother-in-law Mary Brings and Bernard Brings.

A Memorial Mass for Rudy was held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, October 7, at St. Bridget Catholic Church, 120 Depot Street, Wilson, Wis. Visitation for Rudy will be held at Keehr Funeral Home, S604 Plant Street, Spring Valley, Wis., from 4 to 8 p.m. on Monday, October 6, and one hour prior to the service at the church. Burial will be in St. Bridget Catholic Church Cemetery.

Rudy worked with sheep all his life and now he is in the hands of the Good Shepherd. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to St. Bridget Catholic Church, the Great Lakes Wool Growers Association Scholarship Fund at UW-River Falls, or the Indianhead Polled Hereford Association Scholarship Fund at UW-River Falls.