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Prominent Hudson couple victims of apparent murder-suicide

Claire and Betty Lou Erickson are shown in the 2008 Bethel Lutheran Church directory. Photo submitted

A shockwave went through the community Tuesday morning when lifelong Hudson residents Claire, 83, and Betty Lou Erickson, 81, were found dead in their home on Crest View Drive overlooking the St. Croix River. It appears to be a murder-suicide.

Claire Erickson was the founder of the Erickson Oil/Freedom convenience store chain and both were Hudson High School graduates, Claire in 1943 and Betty (Lohman) in 1944.

Hudson Chief of Police Marty Jensen said there was no indication of an intruder at the home, 1003 Crest View Drive.

"It appears to be a murder-suicide," Jensen said. "A gun was used."

Jensen confirmed the identity of the victims late Tuesday afternoon. Authorities were called to the scene at about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday. According to transmissions on a scanner, it appeared that the police were summoned by James Kron, son-in-law of the Ericksons.

Details were still sketchy as of press time, but authorities spent Tuesday afternoon at the scene, collecting evidence and taking photos. The couple was seen alive as recently as 9 p.m. Monday, according to Jensen.

The bodies were taken to the Ramsey County (Minnesota) Medical Examiner's office for autopsies.

Claire, the son of longtime Hudson businessman Herman Erickson, began the service station chain with Herman in 1950. Herman gravitated toward the grocery end of the business with son Dean Erickson while Claire managed the gas business. The Hudson-based business is still operated by Claire's son, David Erickson.

Herman Erickson purchasd a bankrupt oil refinery in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Minnesota business was renamed Northwestern Refining Co. The refinery was sold in 1970 to Ashland, but the operation sparked Herman's interest in fuel retailing.

In 1950, Herman and Claire Erickson purchased their first gas station in Red Wing. In 1981, the petroleum operations split from the grocery operations. By 1983, the convenience store operation had grown into a wholly owned subsidiary, Freedom Valu Centers. Later the name of the stations was changed to Freedom.

Freedom Valu Centers Inc., also known as Erickson Oil Products Inc., is located at 1231 Industrial St. in Hudson. The company now has over 800 employees with convenience stores and gas stations throughout the Midwest. There are three Freedom stations in Hudson and North Hudson. The firm was the winner of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau Large Business of the Year Award, presented at the Chamber banquet in January 2008.

Claire is the son of the late Herman and Hazel Erickson; Betty Lou is the daughter of Cleo and Victor Lohman. Claire and Betty Lou had observed their 60th wedding anniversary March 18.

The couple has four children, Dave, 54; Marilyn (Mimi) Kron, 59; Kristine (Kampmeyer), 47; and Nancy (1951-1974). Nancy died in an automobile accident in Colorado Oct. 23, 1974.