Wilbert Martin Ericson died peacefully in his sleep on January 30 at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois. Born on June 4, 1921, in Turlock, California, to Martin Albin Ericson and Elizabeth Hannah (Larson) Ericson, he grew up in North Sacramento[SJE1] , California, and graduated from Grant Union High School in Sacramento in 1938.
After the start of World War II, he enlisted in the US Coast Guard and was selected for Officer Training School at the USCG Academy in New London, CT. Wilbert served as Executive Officer on USCG ships provisioning troops in the Pacific Theater, notably in what are today the island nations of Tuvalu and Vanuatu as well as in New Guinea, the Philippines, and China. He felt the call to be a Christian missionary while attending the Lutheran Bible Institute in Los Angeles[SJE2] ; there he met his first wife, Leona Marjorie Wigen (1925-1981) of Creston, Illinois, and they were married in 1948. Wilbert subsequently completed his undergraduate education at Pacific Lutheran College (now University) in Tacoma, WA, and his theological training at the Augustana Lutheran Seminary in Rock Island, IL.
Ordained as a minister in June 1953, Wilbert sailed with Leona and their two young children to Japan, a third child was born soon after their arrival, where he served faithfully as a missionary pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America until 1987; he retired in 1988. He had missionary assignments in Mihara, Fukuyama, Okayama, Hakodate, and Kumamoto. Wilbert had a deep love and appreciation of Japan and the Japanese and witnessed his faith to them every day. He often marveled that after being an enemy with Japan from 1941 to 1945, he then became a close friend.
After returning to the United States in 1987, he settled in Aurora, IL, the home of his second wife Irene H. Zieche (1922-2005), where he lived the rest of his life. He remained active in local Lutheran churches preaching sermons, teaching Bible classes, and visiting the sick and elderly. He was a faithful member of New Hope Lutheran Church.
In addition to his parents, Wilbert was predeceased by his first wife Leona and his second wife Irene, as well as by his brother Gerald Ericson of Fair Oaks, CA, and sister Elaine Price of Santa Paula, CA. He leaves behind his three children from his first marriage—Mark Ericson of Fernandina Beach, FL; Joan Ericson of Colorado Springs, CO; and Steven Ericson of Morristown, NJ, as well as four stepsons from his second marriage—Bill Zieche of Hartland, WI, John Zieche of Oswego, IL, Jerry Zieche of Branson, MO, and Jim Zieche of Columbia, SC. There are 13 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Wilbert’s request was that in lieu of flowers, gifts be made to New Hope Lutheran Church in 701 N Randall Aurora, IL 60506.
Due to current restrictions all services will be private on Saturday at 10:00 AM at Dieterle Memorial Home but will be livestreamed for the public by visiting www.dieterlememorialhome.com
A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.
He will be interred in the Union Cemetery adjacent to Calvary Lutheran Church in Lee County.
Arrangements entrusted to Dieterle Memorial Home 630-897-1196
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