April 15, 1953-Sept. 30, 2021
Jay Erckenbrack, 68, passed away at the home he built in Tamarack, Minnesota on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. He fought and won his four-year cancer battle with courage, inner strength, humor and dignity.
Jay was born to parents James and Jean Erckenbrack. Jay lived with his parents and sisters, Jamie and Kristen in Adams, Minnesota for eight years. In 1960, his family moved to South Minneapolis where Jay spent most summer days while young, swimming or fishing at nearby Lake Harriet with his best friend Kevin Boyd.
As a teenager, Jay was a member of Outward Bound and led many groups of teens on canoe trips in the Boundary Waters. Jay also spent many summers on the work staff at Mount Olivet's Cathedral of the Pines Camp near Lutsen, Minnesota. This may be where Jay's lifelong love of fishing, hunting and camping began. He often commented "I was born 100 years too late."
Jay graduated from Washburn High School in 1971 and after high school attended Normandale Junior College, worked at the Marriott and continued to guide inner city and church youth groups to the BWCA and the Big Horn Mountains. At this time he married his first wife Jan.
In 1976, Jay and first wife Jan bought property North of Tamarack and began work as a nature photographer while also working for the Rice Lake Wild Life Refuge and the DNR fighting fires. In 1982 he started as the sales manager for the American Wild Rice Co., which eventually became New Frontier Foods, producing traditional Wild Rice and their invented product Ultra Roast Wild Rice. Jay and Jan had one daughter, Amy. They divorced in 1989.
In 1990 Jay and Lori partnered to start their own company, Minnesota Wild in McGregor, producing and selling jellies, syrups and wild rice. They added a winery in 1994 centered on making Honeywine and Berry wines. They married in 2005 and continued the business until closing down in December of 2019 due to Jay's cancer diagnosis.
Jay is survived by his wife Lori Erckenbrack; a biological daughter, Amy Rempher, Bloomington; three stepchildren: Cole Gordon, McGregor; Kasie (Travis) Nielsen, Hill City and Kirstin Gordon, Livingston, Montana; six step-grandchildren; two sisters, Jamie (Tom) Wannigman, Bloomington and Kris (Mike) Tracy, Minneapolis; two nephews, Michael Tracy and Nathan Wannigman; two nieces, Lisa (Demond) Jones and Sarah (Mike) Letich, Minneapolis; childhood friend and partner in mayhem and mischief, Kevin (Bev) Boyd, Bosque Farms, New Mexico; close friends: Shawn (Denise) Walker, Grand Rapids; Tom (Connie) Anderson, McGregor and Jeff Conklin, Ham Lake.
Jay was preceded in death by his parents, James and Jean (Kotchevar) Erckenbrack.
Memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. at the Amazing Grace Church at 99 S First Street, McGregor, MN. Refreshments to follow.
Memorials can be made to the Riverwood Healthcare Foundation, 200 Bunker Hill Dr., Aitkin, MN 56431, directed to the Oncology and Infusion units in Memory of Jay Erckenbrack.