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A workers gift: Children missionaries benefit

In life few knew William Edwin Erickson.
William Edwin Erickson wearing his Mormon Battalion uniform was a hard worker with few friends.
Photo by Keith Johnson/Deseret Morning NewsPresident Thomas S. Monson right and Jake Garn former U.S. senator attend ceremony honoring William Edwin Erickson a humble and frugal man who left his life savings to Primary Childrens Medical Center and the Churchs missionary fund.
A worker for Salt Lake Citys street department he had poor eyesight and other serious physical challenges. He never drove a car never looked like everyone else and never made much money.
But today because he saved what he made and generously left it to help others William Edwin Ericksons name will be remembered by many as a humble man who lived a life of service and charity.
President Thomas S. Monson first counselor in the First Presidency; Bishop Keith B. McMullin second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; members of the General Primary Presidency; and Primary Childrens Medical Center executives gathered Dec. 21 to pay tribute to Brother Erickson who died Feb. 21 2005 at the age of 95.
He left half his sizeable life savings to Primary Childrens Medical Center to help children with vision problems and the other half to the Churchs missionary fund to help others serve the mission he was not physically able to serve explained President Monson.
What an altruistic man we honor today said President Monson at a reception held at Primary Childrens Medical Center on Salt Lake Citys east bench. What makes it good is that he gave all he had.
Because Brother Erickson and President Monson grew up in the same ward President Monson was able to reminisce about a friend he had always known. He said Brother Erickson was a hard worker who loved little children. He was a proud member of the Mormon Battalion volunteered weekly at Welfare Square and ate breakfast at the same local restaurant daily. He liked to talk politics and was so frugal that in recent years he put on his last new shirt purchased when Harry Truman was (U.S.) president.
Still he had his share of challenges. He has had many of the maladies people could have in life President Monson said. People would scorn him thinking he was a vagrant.
Yet friends like President Monson helped him along. One of President Monsons favorite memories of his friend occurred on Thanksgiving several years ago when Brother Erickson held one of President Monsons great-granddaughters. The little blonde girl blew her great-grandfathers friend a kiss bringing tears to Brother Ericksons eyes. Upon seeing the scene President Monson thought and a little child shall lead them.
Bishop McMullin called the day a culminating event for many whose lives intertwined with Brother Ericksons. He was a humble gentle and generous benefactor Bishop McMullin said. To me Brother Erickson was a man who experienced hardships and overcame them.
Those closest to him Bishop McMullin continued knew Brother Erickson was not an outgoing person. But when he could reach out to others he did. He set a wonderful example and was a tremendous influence for good on the earth.
Joseph Mott Primary Childrens Medical Center chief operating officer said it is fitting for a man to leave all he had to the Church and the hospital especially considering the two organizations long history.
The hospital was founded in 1911 by the Church. In 1975 the Church created a not-for-profit entity Intermountain Heath Care and gifted the Primary Childrens Medical Center to it. However today the Church still participates with the hospital including its annual Pennies-by-the-Inch fund-raising campaign.
During the event President Monson recalled as a child placing pennies in a small replica hospital/bank in his ward building.
Jake Garn former U.S. Senator and co-chairman of the Primary Childrens Medical Center Foundation helped President Monson unveil a plaque with pictures of Brother Erickson (one in a familiar red cap to keep out the cold the other in his Mormon Battalion uniform) that will hang in the hospital. An additional plaque bearing Brother Ericksons name will stand as part of the hospitals building block donor display in its main entry.
So a man not well-known in life will be remembered for what he saved and gave away after death. A gift and life President Monson said fitting the royal welcome that awaited him on the other side.
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