One of the benefits of working as a professional outfitter and guide is that I get to work with some really outstanding wildlife professionals.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of one of the all-around nicest men and professional officers you'd ever want to meet, Gunnar Erickson. Gunnar was just 53 years old when he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away last week. That is much too young to lose a guy like him.
Gunnar was born and raised in Kansas during his early years, but he eventually was drawn to Arizona. He was married 30 years to his wife, Nancy, and they had three sons - Dustin, Dallas and Drew. Gunnar and Nancy were also the guardian of a 14-year-old niece, Katie.
In 1995, Gunnar graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor's of Science degree in wildlife habitat management. While in college, Gunnar was hired by the Arizona Game & Fish Department as a seasonal radio room dispatcher. In 1997, Gunnar was hired as a wildlife manager and was assigned to the Henderson District, which meant he would be the wildlife manager for game management units 15B and 15C that are in Region III. Gunnar remained in that position his entire career.
Gunnar quickly earned a reputation of being a dedicated professional officer, and he became a mentor and trainer for many new wildlife managers in the Kingman sector. Gunnar was responsible for teaching new wildlife managers practical field applications of game management, watercraft and OHV enforcement information and education, and even fisheries management.
Those that knew him saw an officer who was patient and always had a positive attitude.
Over the years, Gunnar developed a special passion for law enforcement, especially when it concerned watercraft and public safety. He was the Region III primary watercraft law enforcement officer, and he was responsible for the areas that included Lake Mead, Lake Mohave and the Colorado River from Willow Beach to Cottonwood Cove.
Gunnar was one of the department's OUI (operating under the influence) detection and enforcement instructors and helped train officers not only with the AZGFD but other law enforcement agencies that patrolled lakes and rivers in their own jurisdictions.
Despite being a consummate professional, Gunnar enjoyed playing practical jokes on his friends and fellow officers. If he found an officer's vehicle unlocked, he might have put baby powder in the air conditioning vents, or perhaps smear some Vaseline under the door handles.
He was always smiling, and he had a sense of humor that could make anyone smile. Gunnar was always the funniest guy in the room. He was one of those guys that everybody liked or loved because he made everyone feel good.
Even when he wrote a ticket, the violator would often times say "Thank you" to Gunnar before they left. He was just that kind of guy.
Gunnar had some special quirks, too. He always had a magnet on the hood of his truck. Even if his friends moved it, he would always find it and put it back where he wanted it.
Gunnar used to call himself "The Legend: Loved by all women, most men and all children." The truth is he was all of that and maybe more.
Like almost all wildlife officers, Gunnar liked to hunt and go four-wheeling with his family. He also had a passion for auto racing and Jeff Gordon was his idol.
Gunnar was - to me - a true, hard working professional who I greatly respected for his knowledge and commitment to the department and serving the citizens of Arizona.
He will be missed by his family, friends and co-workers. The citizens of Arizona have lost a great one; but his always smiling and jovial nature is something that I'm sure will never be forgotten by those of us who knew him well.
Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
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Thanks for all the great times Gunnar - you will be missed but never forgotten.
Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014
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Thank you Don for writing such an awesome article!! Gunnar was a great husband, father, mentor and friend!! He will truly missed to everyone who had the opportunity to meet him. I was blessed to help him on several volunteer events with the AZGFD and feel it was an honor. He was a person that made everyone laugh and feel welcome. God Bless all his family, friends, and co-workers!! RIP Gunnar!