Liisa Erickson has returned to God, who is our home. After a brave two-year battle with endometrial cancer, Liisa passed away peacefully in her sleep early on the morning of Monday, January 18, 2010, with her husband Robert by her side. He and their three children and their families (including four grandchildren) were in constant attendance during her last week at Mission Terrace Convalescent Hospital in Santa Barbara.
Liisa was born February 14, 1938, in Pielavesi, Finland, the eldest of the six children of Matti and Hilja Raatikainen. She attended local schools and graduated from the Nursing Academy in Turku, Finland, as an RN; she went on to do post-graduate neurological nursing at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queen Square, London, England. She met her future husband Robert in London on a blind date, and when he secured a position as an English professor at UCSB, he proposed. They were married at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Isla Vista November 21, 1966, Pastor Otto Bremer officiating. They lived first on Garden Street in Santa Barbara, and Liisa continued taking classes and worked at several nursing facilities before becoming a full time mother and homemaker. She kept up her registered nursing license her entire life.
In 1980 Liisa helped design and supervise a major remodel of her home on Medcliff Road on the Mesa. It was to become the center for many gatherings of friends and relatives for the rest of her life. For over forty years, Liisa hosted annual Christmas and Easter parties for large numbers of friends on the UCSB faculty and staff, UCSB students, members of Grace Lutheran Church (which she and her family attended from 1967), and other friends. She was known for her wonderful hospitality, culinary prowess (including a legendary rum cake), organic gardening, and constant good cheer and warm generosity. She also supervised the Food Distribution Program for many years at Grace Lutheran Church, and frequently cooked for Transition House of Santa Barbara.
Liisa was the guiding force in organizing thirteen trips to Finland and England for her family from 1970 through the 1990s. She was an avid, discriminating reader, an active research partner in her husband’s many research trips to London, Oxford, and Cambridge, and a mainstay in two book clubs. She also hosted numerous undergraduate student gatherings and performance groups over the years at the Erickson home. In 1999-2000 she and her husband enjoyed a year back in her home country, living in Helsinki. Liisa became a U.S. citizen in 2009, and had dual citizenship with Finland. Last summer, Liisa and her daughter organized a trip to London, and an unforgettable family reunion in Finland in August of 2009. Liisa Erickson was a community builder for UCSB and the city of Santa Barbara, and her bright smile, resonant laugh, strength of character and judgment, and unfailing generosity will be missed by all who had the privilege of being in her presence.
She is survived by her husband of forty-three years, her three children and their spouses, Martin and Lisa, Stephen and Libby, and Annaliisa and Dave, and her four grandchildren, Christian, Blake, Katarina, and Evelina. She is also survived by her sister Maija, and brothers Matti and Tatu, all in Finland. A memorial service will be held February 13, 10:00 a.m., at Grace Lutheran Church (3869 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93105). In lieu of flowers please send contributions to Grace Lutheran Church, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara (300 W. Pueblo St., Santa Barbara, CA 93105), or Hospice of Santa Barbara, Inc. (2050 Alameda Padre Serra, Suite 100, Santa Barbara, CA 93103), in memory of Liisa Erickson.