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Erickson Oil/Freedom Valu Center C-store Founder, Wife Dead

HUDSON, Wis. -- The founder of Erickson Oil and the Freedom Valu Centers convenience chain, Claire Erickson, 83, and wife Betty, 81, were found dead in their home here from an apparent murder-suicide early Tuesday, the Pioneer Press reported.

Police were called to the home about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to investigate and said there was no indications of anyone breaking into the home. Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen confirmed this with CSNews Online, and provided a statement that said, "indications at the scene suggest this was a possible murder-suicide and that a gun was used." Jensen declined to say who fired the gun, but noted more details about the case would be available late this week or early next week.

Family members were at the home Tuesday morning helping with the investigation, but declined to speak to the media, requesting privacy during the grieving period, the report stated.

Neighbors told the paper both Ericksons were cancer survivors and were often seen gardening in their yard. They were a loving couple, neighbors said, and nothing indicated problems between them, according to the report.

"I can't see them doing this to themselves — I just can't," said neighbor Leza, who would not give her last name. "They were just a perfect, loving couple."

Dave Holt, owner of a Ford dealership in Hudson since 1974, called the deaths "a shocking development for the Hudson community."

Claire and his father, Herman, purchased their first gas station in Red Wing, Minn., in 1950. Claire built the Freedom Valu Centers convenience store chain, which has more than 60 locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Michigan, according to the company Web site. The family also owned a refinery, which was sold in 1970, the report stated.

The Ericksons' company and family have been longtime supporters of the community, according to Kim Heinemann, president of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. She told the paper Erickson Oil was recognized as the 2007 large business of the year by the organization.

Claire and Betty Erickson are survived by three children: David, Marilyn "Mimi", Kristine, as well as their grandchildren. They were preceded by daughter Nancy in 1974. Funeral services for the couple will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, March 30, at Bethel Lutheran Highlands Church, located at 504 Frontage Road in Hudson. Visitation will be 1 hour prior to the service at the church, as well as Sunday, March 29, from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the O’Connell Family Funeral Home, located at 520 S. 11th Street in Hudson, according to the funeral home's Web site.
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