If Bill Erickson were to lose count of the number of years he’s been involved in 4-H, there are constant reminders around the community that would help him at least estimate his decades of involvement.
“Anymore, I run into people who see me and lean over to tell their grandkids, ‘That guy was my 4-H leader,’ ” Erickson said. “That tells you something — when the kids you remember helping now have grandkids of their own.”
It’s now been 60 years that Erickson, 84, has been a 4-H leader in Weld County, and — in addition to recognition from those he’s influenced over the years — his 4-H dedication and other efforts also have gotten the attention of his alma mater.
This month, Erickson was given the Colorado State University Alumni Association 50 Year Club’s Public Service Award — given annually by the 50 Year Club as part of CSU homecoming festivities.
In addition to serving as a leader for the local Galeton 4-H Club, Erickson, a longtime Weld County dairyman, has served as president of the Weld County 4-H Leadership Council and Colorado’s State 4-H Leadership Council.
He’s also served on the Ag Committee for the Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce, been a member of the Weld County Farm Bureau for more than 60 years and been active in international exchange programs for youth in agriculture.
Along with his award from CSU, the honoring of the 60-year leader highlighted the Weld County 4-H Foundation’s annual meeting in the spring. Erickson’s 60 years of leading the same club is an accomplishment only a handful of people in Colorado have achieved, according Weld County 4-H officials.
A 4-H member himself during his youth and a 1951 graduate of Colorado State University, Erickson started his volunteer leadership after serving two years in the U.S. Air Force right out of college.
A decade ago, Erickson was recognized in the 107th U.S. Congressional Record for his accomplishment as a 50-year leader.
“The honors have certainly meant a lot,” said Erickson, who — with his daughter, Gege Ellzey, serving as his driver — is still attending 4-H meetings around the county and state. Last week, he made the nearly five-hour trip to Gunnison to attend a meeting. “I know I’ve given a lot to 4-H, but there’s no doubt in my mind I’ve gotten way more out of it than I’ve put in.”
“The people you meet ... the ones who recognize you and say hello 60 years later ... they make it worth it,” he continued. “You always hear people asking the question, ‘If you could do anything with your life, what would you do?’ Well, working on the dairy here and being involved in 4-H, I can honestly say I’ve always done what I truly wanted to do.”