Eric Wilburn Carlson died peacefully at home in the presence of family on Oct. 13, 2022, just a few weeks shy of his 94th birthday.
Eric was born on Oct. 31, 1928 on a farm near Elgin. He was the fourth of five children born to Swedish immigrants, Oscar and Marie (Malla) Carlson, who came to central Texas from Sweden in the 1910s. He grew up on a pair of farms in the Lund Community north of Elgin, speaking Swedish as his first language in a vibrant Swedish farming community. After the onset of World War II, Eric split time between high school and helping his father on the family farm after his older brothers Glen and Carl joined the Army and left to serve in the European war theatre. He graduated from Elgin High School in 1946.
Eric served as an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army for two years from 1946 to 1948 as part of the occupation army in Japan. Upon his return, he became the first family member to attend college when he used his G.I. benefits to enter Texas A&M University. He served as the cadet commander of the Aggie Corps of Cadets his senior year – he was the first veteran and first Air Force ROTC student to serve in that role – before graduating with a Bachelor’s of Sciencedegree in economics in 1952.
After college, Eric was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force, where he became a distinguished pilot. He served as a flight instructor for much of the 1950s, then flew B-47s and later B-52s at the height of the Cold War, over Vietnam – two extended duties – and elsewhere. He also served at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Headquarters at Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska, and as wing commander of the 96th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB in Abilene during his career. Eric attended the National War College in Washington, D.C., in 1967-68, and also earned a Master’s in Public Administration from George Washington University while on active duty.
Eric met his beloved wife and lifelong partner Margery (Marge) while he was based in Tucson, Arizona, and she was a student at the University of Arizona. They married in 1958 and raised four children – Karen, Kelley, John and Marianne – as military assignments took the family across the U.S. and to Oslo, Norway.
Upon his retirement from the Air Force as a colonel in 1977, Eric began a new life in his hometown of Elgin – but his personal motor continued to rev at full speed. He renovated what became the family home on North Main Street during his first year of “retirement.” He then served as business director for the American Lutheran Church’s Southwestern Synod in Austin for over 10 years. Upon his second “retirement,” he served, among other things, as the mayor of the city of Elgin for 12 years, where his duties and interests ran from running City Council meetings to pursuing city development and enhancement projects — such as the Elgin Public Library building — to personally maintaining flower planters downtown.
Eric’s passions extended to many other endeavors. He continued to actively work the family farm until late in life. He loved and excelled at gardening. He and Marge traveled extensively. He reveled in talking to fellow Swedish speakers, and sought out Swedish radio programs, to maintain his Swedish language skills. He was deeply committed to church – Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the Lund Community – to community service activities – such as Meals on Wheels –and to cultural organizations – such as the VASA group in Austin. But, faith and family were paramount to Eric, and he enjoyed an abundance of each during his lifetime, a life that included innumerable family meals, vacations, holidays, church services and activities, graduations and celebrations, social evenings on the patio or by the fireplace, and other gatherings and get-togethers with family and friends.
Eric is survived by his wife of 64 years, Marge, and his four children, Karen Hilding and husband, Greg, Kelley Malek and husband, Chris, John Carlson, and Marianne Megarity and husband, David. He is also survived by eight grandchildren, Derek and wife, Ally, Kyle, Austen, Ellena, Julianne, Matthew, Jacob and Hannah; and two great-grandchildren, Molly and Eliza. He was preceded in death by his parents, Oscar and Marie Carlson; sisters, Evelyn and Rose Marie (Polly) Carlson; and brothers, Glen and wife, Mary, and Carl Carlson.
On a few occasions, Eric shared a story about his own father’s funeral in 1969. Eric was serving in Vietnam when he learned that his father was dying and took emergency leave to return to Texas, arriving shortly after his father’s death. After the funeral service, an elderly “Swedish” farmer from the Lund Community approached Eric and told him, “Eric, your father, Oscar, was the most honest man I ever met.” Eric took that as an utmost compliment of his father. But, the same can be said of Oscar’s son.
Rest in peace, Eric/Dad/Granddad. We love you.
The family especially wishes to thank Linda Garcia for being a faithful companion and caregiver to Eric in his last years, and who is a dear family friend.
Contributions and memorials in Eric’s memory may be given to Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Lund; to the Swedish Endowment for Excellence in Education, which is operated by the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin; or to a charity of choice.
Eric will lie in state at Elgin Funeral Home Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. A celebration of Life will be conducted at Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Lund Friday, Oct. 21, at 2 p.m. with Pastor Tom Kesselring presiding. Interment will be private.
Arrangements and care entrusted to Elgin Funeral Home.