DULUTH – In 1947, Liselotte “Lisa” Erickson left her home in Berlin with just a suitcase to move to Minnesota to marry the American soldier she met during World War II.
For the next seven decades, Duluth was home for the German immigrant, who became a U.S. citizen, a nurse, a traveler, a mother and a friend to just about anyone she liked.
“She was like a magnet,” said Mary Alvar, whose friendship with Erickson began about 10 years ago when she agreed to help the then-97-year-old with chores and errands.
“Once you met her, you just wanted to be around her all the time,” she added.
Erickson died in her sleep at age 106 on July 28 after contracting COVID-19. The virus was a contributing factor to her death, though she no longer tested positive for it in her final days — a testament to her strength and tenacity, friends and family said.
Growing up in Germany, Erickson was a nationally ranked doubles tennis player. She told Alvar she was the first woman on her team to wear shorts while the rest of them donned long skirts.
“She was stubborn, even way back then,” Alvar said with a laugh.
Throughout her life, Erickson loved watching tennis. She also closely followed current events, often sparking long conversations about the happenings of the day.
“People were drawn to her,” said her son, Michael Erickson. “I’m still trying to figure out how she did it.”
Alvar said her closeness with the elder grew as the pair swapped stories about their lives. Erickson, who was born in April 1914, lived through the Spanish flu and both world wars. She was a spectator at the 1936 Olympics, when Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the midst of the Nazi regime.
“She was such a good storyteller. I don’t think there was anything I didn’t know about her life, and same with her for me,” Alvar said. “She was just so comfortable to be with. And she was pretty darn entertaining.”
After she moved to Duluth, Erickson quickly passed the test to become a licensed practical nurse. Throughout her 28-year career, she worked at St. Mary’s and St. Luke’s hospitals in Duluth and spent time caring for others as a private-duty nurse.
Erickson liked returning to Germany for visits and taught her son to speak her native language. For many years, she traveled to Hawaii and Florida to escape Duluth’s winters.
After her husband, Clarence, died in 1994, she lived alone in her home for two decades. Erickson had her driver’s license until she turned 100 and loved to shop at Mount Royal Market.
“She didn’t want anyone to think she was a little old lady,” Margaret Erickson said of her mother-in-law.
Even in old age, Lisa Erickson was feisty, engaging and always ready to offer her opinion, according to those who knew her. She spent her final years in the Benedictine Health Center, where staff helped her connect virtually with friends and family during the pandemic.
“She seemed to make friends wherever she went,” her son said.
In addition to her son and daughter-in-law, who live in Silver Spring, Md., Erickson is survived by two grandchildren. A virtual service was held, and an in-person memorial will be scheduled when it’s safe to host gatherings.