Monday, November 28, 2011

Carl William Ericke, aka Uncle Bill

My uncle, Carl William Ericke, was named after his father, Carl Oscar, though everyone called him Bill. He was the youngest child of Carl and Sarah (Voegtly) Ericke, born on November 29, 1933, in Cleveland, Ohio. He was born when my mother, Nancy, was almost three years old.

Bill graduated from Redford High School, in Detroit, in 1952. He was very social and a popular classmate, as evidenced by his multiple high school yearbook photos. In his senior year in high school, Bill was chairman of the senior prom committee, vice-president of the student council and 301 club, on the inter-club dance council, and on the varsity football team. 

In 1953, Bill was a groomsman in my parent's wedding. I think the photos of Uncle Bill and his parents are very sweet and wanted to share them here since I'm not sure his children have ever seen them. They're in color and were developed for a 3D slideviewer so they are a little blurry. 

After graduation, Bill enrolled at Michigan State University. While in college, he joined the Army National Guard, and using the benefits of the GI bill, continued his studies at MSU, graduating in 1956. Since my mother, Nancy, graduated from University of Michigan in 1952, there was a bit of rivalry between the two of them during the football season. Uncle Bill would always call my mother after the MSU/Michigan game and either rub it in, or congratulate her. It was a touching moment they shared all their lives.

Before Uncle Bill married, I would remember him spending Christmas with my family in Darien, arriving on the front steps loaded down with presents. Mom reminded me when I was much older that Bill had always been extremely generous to us during those years he was single, as we were his only niece and nephews at the time. 

Beside their shared name of Carl, my grandfather and uncle have another thing in common: they both had careers at Carpenter [Steel] Technology. Grandpa Ericke started with Carpenter in 1934, eventually becoming the Detroit sales manager. Bill began working at Carpenter in 1959 and was a marketing manager when he left Carpenter in 1972. Bill moved to Reading, Pennsylvania to take this job and it's here he made his home for the next 46 years, until his death in 2005.
In the mid-1960's, Bill met his future wife, Stephanie Voytas, at Weller's, a dance club in Reading. Stephanie was a night nurse at the time, and only went out on weekend nights if she wasn't working, so it's fate that they met in the brief window of time their paths crossed. Bill asked Stephanie to dance, which she politely accepted, and the rest is history. The first song they danced to was Strangers in the Night, made famous in 1966 by Frank Sinatra.

Strangers in the night exchanging glances
Wond’ring in the night 
What were the chances we’d be sharing love 
Before the night was through

Something in your eyes was so inviting
Something in your smile was so exciting
Something in my heart told me I must have you

Strangers in the night, two lonely people
We were strangers in the night
Up to the moment when we said our first hello 

Little did we know
Love was just a glance away
A warm embracing dance away

And ever since that night we’ve been together
Lovers at first sight, in love forever
It turned out so right for strangers in the night

Love was just a glance away
A warm embracing dance away

Ever since that night we’ve been together
Lovers at first sight, in love forever
It turned out so right for strangers in the night

© EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group

Stephanie and Bill Ericke eloped in 1965, but then had a big church wedding a few years later, which my family attended. I even remember what I wore, right down to the blue and white hat. It was the fanciest party I had ever been to, at six years old. The newlyweds bought a house in Muhlenberg Park in 1968 and the family has lived there ever since. They raised three children: Steve, Mary, and Susan.

After he left Carpenter, Bill worked at many different companies, settling in at Bowers Marine, a large boating center where he excelled in sales. Bill worked there until his retirement in 2000, while Stephanie continued to work nights as a nurse until her retirement in 2007.

The Erickes spent summer vacations at North Wildwood, New Jersey, and on the way home would sometimes stop to visit Grandpa Ericke and my family in Connecticut. I'll never forget one summer when the Erickes came to visit and we went clamdigging. The next morning, my father insisted on making clam fritters (essentially pancakes with raw clams tossed in the batter, served with maple syrup). As we were sitting down to eat, the Erickes wisely decided to leave at that exact moment rather than partake in this rather disgusting breakfast choice. My father was very upset, but the rest of my family was envious that the Erickes got out when they did. I can just imagine their conversation in the car! 

Uncle Bill was a very private person who didn't share very much, according to his family. He was like my mother in that respect, so maybe it was genetic. Bill Ericke is greatly missed by his family and friends and on this November 29 we wish him a happy birthday.

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