Erik Daarstad (June 27, 1935- March 13, 2023)

Erik Daarstad passed away on Monday, March 13, 2023 after a short illness at age 87. He was born on June 27, 1935 in a small mining town located in the rugged, desolate mountains of southern Norway. Five years later, World War II came to Norway when the Germans invaded the country on April 9, 1940. After two months of fighting, the much-superior German forces overwhelmed the Norwegians and, for the next five years, Norway would become an occupied country suffering from the many hardships that war brings. 

Erik Daarstad passed away Monday, March 13, 2023. He will be missed. Courtesy photo.

In the village stood a simple wooden building, having been built to serve as the schoolhouse and a community hall used for meetings, dances and the occasional traveling entertainment show. It also served as the local movie theater, and it was here that Erik saw his first movies when he was 6 or 7 years old. It was an entrance into a world so different from what he knew at that time, but also perhaps with a connection to the strange and unfamiliar things happening as World War II had now invaded his small community. 

Then, on March 3, an event happened that changed everything. It was a bright, sunny spring day that suddenly was interrupted by the sound of airplanes. Erik observed the bombs falling that killed 17 civilians, including his dad. 

His mom and older sister then moved to live with his grandparents in the coastal town of Sandnes. The war ended on May 7, 1945, when the Germans capitulated and made it possible for life to slowly return to normal. 

Erik had an early interest in photography and, when in high school, developed a love for movies and storytelling. He explored the few places that offered an education in filmmaking and decided to attend the University of Southern California in Los Angeles — the oldest film school in the United States — to pursue his dream of becoming a cinematographer. 

His mom had also passed away at this point and so, at 18 years old, he set out on a 6,000-mile journey to a new country and new adventures. He had planned to return to Norway, hoping to work in its fledgling film industry; but, after finishing college in three years, decided to try his fortune in the film capital of the world: Hollywood. 

Even though he had intended to work more in dramatic, fictional films, he was at first offered more work in the field of documentary films. It turned out that this was a field he really enjoyed, and he developed a reputation for excellent work. 

Doing mainly documentaries gave him the opportunity to travel and meet and work with many different people in different walks of life — from presidents and celebrities to farmers and fisherman, as well as experiencing being in situations that he would normally never be in. He spent time in Africa covering the work of Jane Goodall studying chimpanzees, as well as documenting a large outdoor concert in Ghana with mainly Black American performers, such as Ike and Tina Turner and many others. 

He spent time with President Lyndon B. Johnson, covered the workings of the Richard Nixon White House two weeks before the Watergate break-in, and accompanied President Ronald Reagan on his trip to Ireland and the 40th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. 

Erik made documentaries covering the lives of celebrities like Rita Hayworth, Paul Newman, Kim Novak, Natalie Wood and especially veterans like Lillian Gish, who got her start during the dawn of motion pictures. 

He photographed documentaries about people like composer Aaron Copeland, Elvis Presley and Creedence Clearwater. He spent time listening to the stories of the astronauts who traveled to the moon; experiencing the Sun Dance on the Pine Ridge Reservation; meeting unique individuals like Buckskin Bill and Frances, living alone among the majestic beauty of the Salmon River in Idaho; enjoying the company of Claudeen Arthur, a young Navajo attorney; meeting unique individuals like Father Gregory Boyle and seeing the difference he had made in the lives of former gang members; and working with people like Anita Hill. 

Erik traveled the world and into faraway places doing documentaries for National Geographic, being chased by a rhino in deep Africa and surviving a vicious storm in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. He even spent time in a war zone in Iraq, covering the stories of wounded soldiers when he was 72 years old. 

In 1969 a short film titled Why Man Creates, which he photographed, won an Oscar and in subsequent years several others were nominated for an Academy Award — including some produced by his longtime close friends and filmmaking collaborators for decades, Terry Sanders and his wife Freida Lee Mock. 

In 1963 on a ski trip to Aspen, Colo., he met a beautiful woman by the name of Louanne Frye. They got married that same year and ended up having three wonderful children: Kari, Heather and Erik Even. They had enjoyed Aspen so much in the early days that they wanted to some day move there; but, by the late ’60s and early ’70s, Aspen was changing so much that they started to look for greener pastures elsewhere. 

Erik and Louanne wanted to try living in a small town that had a ski area, and they heard about Sandpoint from people in Aspen. They checked it out for a couple of years and, in 1976, moved to the Sandpoint area. In 1986, Erik got an offer from a film company in Seattle and they lived there for 11 years before they decided to move back to Sandpoint. 

Beside all his film work, Erik became quite involved with local organizations such as the Panida Theater, POAC and the Historical Society. The Panida became his favorite charity, where he spent several years on the board helping to preserve the old movie theater. Erik was preceded in death by his loving wife Louanne of 45 years. 

As he laid in bed nearing his next new adventure, his daughter asked him if he could have anything to eat or drink right now, what would it be? His slurred speech cleared up right away and his eyes lit like fireballs: “A martini.” So that is exactly what he got. 

He is survived by his three children — Kari Saccomanno (Clay) of Sandpoint; Heather Downey (Dale) Okanogan, Wash.; and Erik Even Daarstad (Stacey) of Murrieta, Calif.; plus 11 grandchildren; and two — soon to be three — great-grandchildren.

Erik was able to work in the film business until he was 80, a remarkable career of 65 years, with his last project being a young couple’s love story during the ’60s in California. 

About 15 years ago, a bunch of old timers in Sandpoint started to meet every morning for morning coffee around a Round Table discussing world affairs, listening to stories, telling jokes and laughing, which would reverberate through the halls of Tango Cafe in Sandpoint. Tomorrow morning there will be an empty chair at the Round Table. 

Please visit Erik’s online memorial at and sign his guest book.

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