Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nancy Louise Ericke Ambrose

Though I've written a lot about my mother on this blog, I haven't really shared with you her "story."

Nancy Ericke was born on February 17, 1931. Named after her grandmother, Nannie Hays, Nancy was the first of two children born to Carl and Sally Ericke. My mother was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but spent most of her young life in Detroit, Michigan. Born during the Great Depression, my mother was always conscious of spending and saving money, even when it came to buying plants for her many gardens. She was a thrifty Yankee even before she moved to New England.

When my mother was a very small child, she lived in a shared home with her cousin Jack and his parents, her Uncle John and Aunt Helen. Being very close in age, Nancy and Jack became the best of friends. I love this photo of the two of them, which I found in the Ericke scrapbook. Jack died in the Korean war and if I had ever known that, I had forgotten it. Mom didn't talk much about the past – at least the past where sad memories lived.

My mother was a good student and very popular in school. She was active in so many clubs and groups in high school and college, I couldn't begin to list them all. Her yearbooks were covered in signatures from beginning to end. She had a high school boyfriend, Rich, that I remember hearing about, one that she thought about over the years and whose address I found in her contacts after her death. She told me once about how she and her friends went to a boy's house (possibly his house) and sang songs beneath his window. It's funny to think about your mother engaging in the silly antics that high school girls are apt to do – even funnier when she's laughing along with you while remembering the stories.

This ad for the Detroit Free Press appeared on all the Detroit buses in 1948. It featured my mother's high school graduation photo and college plans: Hats Off!... To Nancy Ericke, 17, who was graduated from Redford High School this year cum laude. She was the secretary of the Redford Chapter of the National Honor Society; editor of the school paper, "The Outpost;" and co-editor of the school yearbook. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Carl O. Ericke, of 16779 Shaftsbury, Nancy will enter University of Michigan in September.

Nancy became a Pi Beta Phi sorority sister at Michigan, as was her mother at Goucher College. She met some of the most important relationships in her life during those four years, remaining close with her "sisters" until her death. Since my dad also went to Michigan they attended many reunions and football games until my dad couldn't travel anymore. They were True Blue fans!

After my parent's married, they moved to Nanuet, NY. My mother taught third grade for one year, telling me years later that she was a terrible teacher and that "the students walked all over me." It was a short-lived career since my dad relocated to Pontiac, Michigan, and they soon started a family. Within six years, she had three children to care for and Nancy began her new role of mother.

While raising her family, Nancy became a career volunteer. First helping out at our various schools, Nancy soon volunteered for local charities, libraries, town and state committees. Politically, both my parents were very liberal and you could often find my mother campaigning for a local Democrat.

My mother went back to work on a regular basis when my father left his job in New York and began his consulting job at home. Coincidence? She was the deputy registrar of voters in Darien and she really loved that job and the people with whom she worked. She reluctantly resigned this position when she moved to Botswana to be with my dad for his assignment with AED.

After an adventurous four years in Botswana, and many side trips to exotic places, Nancy and Ed settled on Martha's Vineyard. They found a new life there, with a beautiful home, plenty of activities and friends, and almost an acre of land – an empty palette where my mother could use her masterful gardening and artistic skills to create another masterpiece, which she did. I'll share her garden photos with you on a future post.

Happy birthday, Mom!


  1. Your mother sounds like a lovely person, Sarah. She certainly was beautiful! You're inspiring me to go back to digging through the family photos and letters.

    1. Thanks Mary! I'll bet your family has some wonderful stories. Love your blog – you're a wonderful writer.