William Gene “Bill” Erdmann, 79, died peacefully at home on July 23, 2016. He was born on Aug. 5,1936, in Golden Valley, N.D., to William Fredrick and Wilhelmina (Miller) Erdmann. He was the youngest and only son born to a family with four sisters.
Bill and his parents traveled from Golden Valley to Billings in the 1940s when he was about 6 years old. There, his father started Erdmann Construction. It became the family business until 1962. Bill attended Broadwater Elementary and graduated from Billings Senior High in 1954. Soon after, he attended Eastern Montana College for a short period of time, but soon left to work in the family business. In addition to working construction, he worked other various jobs from the packing plant to the oil rigs when construction was slow. During that time, Bill also joined the U.S. Naval Reserves and served his country for 20 years.
On May 24, 1958, Bill married Marcella Louise VanElsen. Bill and Marcella had a deep love and affection for each other. Together, they raised three independent boys: Steven John, Mitchell William and William Scott. Many trips were spent fishing, hunting and camping with family and friends, often ending the long evenings listening to the boys pick guitar. In 1976, Bill and his boys built the family dream home in Emerald Hills. It was this place that was most loved until both their passings. Bill enjoyed the outdoor life, often working long hours in the yard. He also enjoyed photography and horticulture. He spent many hours cultivating beautiful bonsai trees. Later in life, Bill and Marcella enjoyed traveling with their good friends until traveling became difficult. Then they spent their days with their grandchildren and great-grandsons.
Perhaps one of the many accomplished moments in Bill’s life was his job as a Billings Firefighter. On Sept. 1,1962, Bill was hired by the Billings Fire Department and worked for 36 years until his retirement as a Captain on Dec. 31, 1998. He made many lifetime friends and left his legacy for future firefighters. In between working at the fire department and raising a family, Bill started his own carpet-installing company, in which he had various partners including his sons and grandsons.
Bill is preceded in death by his wife, Marcella; son, Steven; and grandson, William Robert; his parents and three sisters, Ruth, Florence and Laverne. He survived by his sons, Mitch (Rosemary), William Jr; daughter-in-law Shirley; sister, Barbara; grandchildren and great-grandchildren; as well as many nieces, nephews and many friends.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial in Bill’s name can be made to Rocky Mountain Hospice and/or Billings Firefighter Benevolent Fund.
Funeral Mass will be at 12 noon on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at St. Patrick Co-Cathedral. Interment will take place in the Lavina Cemetery following mass.