Monday, May 23, 2011

Shirley D. Erickson - Memorial Service

Shirley D. Erickson was born in her family home in Neshkoro, Wisconsin on November 17, 1927, the third child to Arnold C. and Bernice M.Dahlke. Baptized Shirley Mae Dahlke at the Zion Lutheran Church in Neshkoro, this same church will be the location of her memorial service to be held on June 18, 2011 at 3:00 p.m., in honor of Shirley’s life, and to mark her passing on May 16, 2011 of a cardiac arrest.

Educated in a one-room school house, Shirley first attended school at age four. In the third grade, her fate as a future artist was sealed when she first saw the painting of “The Horse Fair” done by the French artist, Rosa Bonheur. Her fate as a horsewoman was also sealed when her father, Arnold, promised to give Shirley a mustang stallion named, “King,” when Shirley was hospitalized and not expected to survive. However, promised a horse of her own, Shirley regained her will to live, and the girl and King were inseparable until Shirley attended college at age sixteen.

Majoring in fine arts and English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Shirley secured her bachelor’s degree in 1948. Afterwards, she studied at the Banff school of fine arts in Alberta, Canada, and later pursued graduate work both at her alma mater and at Northern Illinois University. Between her studies, Shirley spent four-months living at the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona, where she did water colors and learned Native American rituals and lore. She also spent several months living and painting in Tombstone, Arizona; she was recovering from tuberculosis at the time.

Shirley was first retained to do interior design at the Boston Store in Milwaukee. Disillusioned by the retail trade, she returned to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in fine art and education. Between college semesters, Shirley secured a position as a summer camp counselor and art teacher at Hilltop Camp in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which was run by Herbert and Eloise Fritz. Hilltop was located near Taliesin East, a school founded by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was on a tour of Taliesin that Shirley met her future husband, Don Erickson, a red-haired man born of Swedish immigrants whose passion for architecture rivaled Shirley’s passion for being a fine artist. Don apprenticed with Wright between 1948 and 1951. Two years later, the couple married at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Princeton, Wisconsin on December 13, 1952.

The couple first resided in a home designed by Don and located in Palatine, Illinois which they built while Shirley was pregnant with her first child. On or about 1956, the Ericksons moved to Mt. Prospect, Illinois where they resided until 1965. Shirley was a stable artist at the Countryside Gallery in Arlington Heights, Illinois between 1963 and 1970, and a participant in numerous juried art shows. While Shirley built her reputation as an artist, Don built his architectural practice, gaining renown in the Chicago area for his design of private residences, and the Indian Lakes Resort, Hilton Hotel in Bloomingdale, Illinois.

In the early 1960’s, Don and Shirley acquired ten acres of land in Barrington, Illinois and eventually built a home that Don designed for the Erickson family which had grown to three children. Shirley won “Best in Show” for her painting of the Langendorf’s Antique Shop at the Barrington Art Fair in 1969. In 1970, Don and Shirley divorced, and Shirley returned to Wisconsin to raise Arabian horses and to continue her work as an artist; she and her family lived on a farm near Princeton, Wisconsin. After her first two children attended college, Shirley moved to Dakota, Wisconsin. During this time, a retrospective of Shirley’s work was featured at the Oshkosh Public Museum in 1986.

Always the adventurer, one day the spirit moved her; Shirley packed up her van, drove out west, and landed in Dove Creek, Colorado when she was in her 70’s. She said that she never felt more at home than in Dove Creek, where she was welcomed as the local artist and did many of her best paintings. In year 2000, the Edge of the Cedars State Park museum in Blanding, Utah, featured the “Rock and Soul” exhibition of Shirley’s work, which included paintings of bleached skulls, Mesa Verde, and Anasazi ruins.

Diagnosed with lung disease in 2005, Shirley could no longer withstand the Colorado altitude, and she missed seeing her only grandchild, Cora. She returned home to Wautoma, this time with her companion “Dog,” a shaggy Australian Shepherd. Near the end of her life, Shirley enjoyed the company of Cora, taught art to private students, but with dwindling eyesight, she painted less and less. She reflected, just before she died, that she had “lived a good life” and that she“had done everything that she wanted to do.” She died, just as she lived, on her own terms.

The memorial service, which is open to the public, will be held at the Zion Lutheran Church, on 227 North State Street, Neshkoro, WI, on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 3:00 p.m. Flowers can be sent to the church in Shirley’s honor, or donations can be made in her honor to the American Lung Association (

Friday, May 20, 2011

In Memorium

Shirley in Barrington
A memorial service will be held for Shirley D. Erickson, along with a photographic retrospective of her paintings, on June 18, 2011 at 3:00 p.m. at the Zion Lutheran Church in Neshkoro, Wisconsin.

Zion Lutheran Church
227 North State Street
Neshkoro, WI 54960-9501
(920) 293-4312

Family, friends, and the public are welcome. Flowers can be sent in Shirley's honor to the church, or donations can be made, in Shirley's honor, to the American Lung Society. See link below:

Shirley suffered from COPD.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shirley D. Erickson

Married to Don on Dec. 13, 1952, Shirley Erickson died today, at age 83, of cardiac arrest, in her sleep.  Shirley was Don's first wife, and mother to three children, including me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Don Erickson Estate Home Sold

I have been amazed by the number of visitors to my blog; the written word is powerful.  I became interested in writing when I was young.  I wrote poetry while sitting on my bed, and looked out through the sliding glass doors of my bedroom onto the forest just outside my room.

I was enchanted with the book, Swiss Family Robinson, and asked my father if I could have a rope ladder installed in my room, and bookshelves built high above the door, near the ceiling, so that I could be perched above and absorb myself in the written words of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. . .authors who appealed to me then and now...

I fancied myself a writer and an illustrator. . .while my father wanted me (as he wanted each of his children) to follow in his footsteps. . .to become an architect. Perhaps, he said, I could study architecture during the summer between high school semesters with Solari?  Dad and I had traveled to a Chicago museum to see an exhibition on Solari's work, and on one of our family trips to Arizona, we visited Arcosanti in addition to walking the grounds of Taliesin West.  (In the past, a Solari bell hung from each of the beams that extended over the long-walk to the front door of our home, but, more recently, these bells were removed, and my father's extensive collection of paintings, sculpture and oriental rugs sold. . .)

My father's house has been vacant (or nearly so) for two years.  Having visited my home in September 2010, the house was a shell filled with memories. . .

The heat had been turned off, in the dead of winter, and we struggled to restore the heat to prevent radiant pipes from bursting. . .

The home had been broken into - twice -  more recently to steal copper pipes. . .

And, while the price of my father's estate continued to fall from its over-priced private listing of $4.2 Million to its eventual sale at $835,000, I was most concerned that the buyer would be a developer who would level my father's home, and build new homes that would be an affront to nature, rather than a ode to mother earth.

It appears, however, that my father's home has been purchased by an appreciator of the arts who has retained an architect to restore the home to its original details (with some minor modifications).  The buyer has requested the plans to our father's home so that no details are lost in this restoration, and it appears that the electrical system in the home will be upgraded.  And, the landscaping will be redone. . .with the original plants uprooted and replanted.

The buyer, a professional, plans to retire in Barrington, and in my father's home. . .and, it appears that he appreciates an architectural gem. . .

My father would be grateful for such a good ending for the home that he so loved. . .and such a good beginning. . .

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Look Back at the Mayes House

The son of Jack Mayes, Shawn, shares memories and photos about his life in a Don Erickson home, a home painstakingly built by the Mayes in the 1950's.

The plans and copyrights to the Mayes house, which was designed by Don Erickson, are owned by Mr. Erickson's children.