Alice Erickson, summer camper at Lake Winnipesaukee for eight decades, dies at 96

Ms Erickson, whose longevity has earned her the unofficial title of Queen of the YMCA Sandy Island Family Camp, has died cancer home Thursday in the North Hill retirement community in Needham. She was 96 years old and had previously lived in Wellesley.

“She was the matriarch,” said Kate Lemay, general manager of the YMCA of Greater Boston’s night camps. “She was for the whole camp.”

Such dedication to Sandy Island also brought Ms. Erickson some fame.

In addition to being in the NBC News report, she was quoted in a Washington Post article about the camp and made headlines in the Globe in 2013, when she made her 75th summer pilgrimage.

Her parents did not go to camp for some summers during World War II, and an August later Ms. Erickson and her husband took their children on a cross-country trip to and from California, instead. to head north to Lake Winnipesaukee.

Otherwise, however, “Sandy is one of those constant things,” she told The Globe in 2013. “Where else can you come for a week without having to cook or clean and just enjoy. the company?”

Then 88 years old, Ms. Erickson still participated in bocce games and participated vigorously in line dances at the camp pavilion, twirling and twirling on the steps of the “Salty Dog Rag”.

Dancing changed her life when she met Harold Erickson at camp one summer. Two weeks of dancing together put them on the path to getting engaged the following spring.

They married in 1952 and had four children who also became campers – as did their children and their children’s children, turning the Ericksons into a family of five generations at the camp.

In the summer of 2013, four generations were in attendance, ranging from Ms Erickson, 88, to her 9-month-old great-grandson, Orion.

Parts of life on Sandy Island have evolved over the years, Ms. Erickson observed, including the way food was kept cool.

“We used to get blocks of ice from the lake,” she told NBC.

The fifth of six siblings, Alice L. Nakashian was born at Newton-Wellesley Hospital on March 1, 1925 and raised in Wellesley.

Her father, Edward Nakashian, sold rugs to Wellesley and her mother, Aroussiak Bogosian Nakashian, helped with the business, as did Alice and their siblings as children.

Alice graduated from Wellesley High School. She and Harold spent their marriage living in a Wellesley house that her father had built.

A WWII Army veteran, Harold was a telephone company lineman. He died in 2006.

After meeting on the dance floor, dancing has remained a key part of their life. At one point, they started square dancing and regularly went out in the evenings dressed in square dance outfits.

“My mother was musical. She loved to sing, she knew how to play the piano and she sang in the choir of the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church, ”said her son, Bob of Meredith, NH.

“When she was younger, she attended the Trapp family music camp in Vermont,” he said. “She actually met the people who were doing the ‘Sound of Music’.”

Ms. Erickson “loved, loved, loved classical music,” said daughter Ruth Doucette of Reading.

At dinner, Ms Erickson and her husband would turn on WCRB-FM, the classical music station, and play that track, only with Bach and Beethoven, asking their children about symphonies and chamber music.

Whether at home or on Sandy Island, Ms. Erickson “had a lovely smile and people gravitated around her,” said her daughter Jean Moroney of La Jolla, Calif.

“I think a big part of the secret is that she listened to people,” Jean said. “She made them feel valued.”

Ms. Erickson “was proud to listen to others,” said Bob, “and she taught me the importance of listening:” Listen to what they are saying, understand what they are saying, think about what they say and then discuss it. “

That said, Ms Erickson “was also a shark when it came to cribbage or canasta,” Jean said. “At 96, she hadn’t lost a single brain cell.”

Prior to getting married, Ms. Erickson had worked at Harvard Coop. After her children grew up, she worked as a clerk at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where she looked after payroll for maintenance staff, her children said.

She was so good at it that after she retired nominal, the hospital persuaded her to keep coming once a week to do payroll until she hit her mid-70s. they stated.

Ms. Erickson brought the same attention to detail to running a house with four children.

“She knew how to save money and how to shop properly,” said daughter Barbara of Peoria, Arizona. “Every Sunday she would take the paper and cut out all the coupons, go through the flyers and circle whatever she wanted.”

And “she was a true perfectionist when it came to her chocolate chip cookies,” said Ruth, who added that her mother would adjust the number of chips and the size of each touch of dough before sliding the pan into the oven. .

“They would come out and they would be exactly the same size,” said Ruth. “People were like, ‘They’re not homemade because they’re all perfect.’ She put a lot of love into it.

Ms. Erickson has put even more love into her time with her family.

“One of the things that I will miss the most is that at the end of our phone conversations, she would say, ‘Drive safe’, and I would say, ‘I always do.’ I will miss this, ”Barbara said through tears. “I will never hear him say that again.” It was just one more way for her to say, “I love you. “

In addition to her four children, Ms. Erickson leaves behind seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 am Friday at Wellesley Hills Congregational Church.

After Harold’s death, Ms Erickson continued to return to Sandy Island every year until the pandemic swept her away last year and her cancer diagnosis this year.

“I know people, and I love people, and people love me,” she told The Globe in 2013. “First and foremost, it’s about the people.”

On Sandy Island, she “was easy to like,” Lemay said.

“And she loved to be loved,” Lemay added. “She had a lovely, moving laugh – almost like you hooked up with all the time. You felt so much love when you were with Alice.

Bryan Marquard can be reached at [email protected]

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