Former Mercer Island resident Delores “Dede” Erchinger, 94, died at home with friends and family at her side on May 8, 2009, in Alaska. She was a 66-year resident of Mercer Island. Mrs. Erchinger was born on July 1, 1914, in Cordova, Alaska.
A memorial service will be held at noon on Saturday, June 6, at the Community Center at Mercer View, 8236 S.E. 24th St., Mercer Island, with the Rev. Peter J. Luton officiating.
Mrs. Erchinger was featured exactly 24 years ago tomorrow in a story in the May 21, 1985 issue of the Reporter. The story focused on the community involvement of the woman who had first come to the Island in 1937 when she and her husband, Alan, moved to a log cabin along East Mercer Way without electricity. The family raised three daughters, and the cabin expanded into a home. Yet it remained a simple house, often without much heat. As a small girl, daughter Sandy Maloof remembers her mother washing clothes in the bathtub, wearing a fur coat.
“We didn’t have a refrigerator either,” she said. “One day our dog took the meat off the kitchen counter.”
Maloof also remembers being wakened by her parents one morning so she could come see a magnificient deer, a buck standing in the family driveway.
When her children grew older, Erchinger worked for many years at an Island real estate company. After her daughters were grown and her husband died in 1975, she began another career in community service, working on everything from coordinating the Mercerversary Parades to the city’s Bicentennial Celebration and becoming an indispensable part of the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce.
Mrs. Erchinger had not been well for some time, but was folding Chamber newsletters for her daughter, the director of the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce in Alaska, a few days before she died.
“That sort of sums up Delores,” said Island Chamber Director Terry Moremon. “She loved being involved and was a mainstay of whatever she was involved with. She kept our Chamber going for years when there wasn’t an office or staff. All the records and notes were in the trunk of her car.”
Moremon remembers one important chore that Mrs. Erchinger took on herself.
“I think she was in her 70s when she drove to Olympia and got the Chamber re-incorporated,” Moremon remembered. “The articles of incorporation had expired, and on her own she set about getting the Chamber re-instated.”
After moving to Seattle with her family in the 1920s, Mrs. Erchinger graduated with honors from Queen Anne High School in 1931. She graduated from Bellevue Community College in 1972, obtaining her Washington state real estate license shortly thereafter. She was employed by Pope and Talbot as an administrative staff member in Seattle and employed by John T. Dunney Real Estate as an office manager on Mercer Island, where she was the first person who many met when moving to the Island. She retired in 1991.
In addition to her long involvement with the Chamber, she was a civic leader, volunteering for many organizations over her life, including the Mercer Island Historical Society, Hopelink and the East Shore Unitarian Church, where she was a longtime member. She was honored as the Citizen of the Year by the City of Mercer Island in 1993. Mrs. Erchinger remained at the family home on Butterworth Road off East Mercer Way until she lived at Island House just prior to moving to Alaska in 2003.
She returned to Alaska to live with her daughter, where she continued with volunteer activities for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber until her death.
Known as “Dede,” Mrs. Erchinger’s family will always remember her for her gracious nature in the face of tremendous physical challenges. Her overriding concern was always for those around her. Survivors include her brother, Richard Kerwood; daughters, Sandy Maloof (Emmett) and Susie Gorski (Jim); and grandchildren and their families, Michael Maloof, Chris, Christy, Jacob and Teagan Ferber, and Jami, Laura, Kaylee, Tristan, Wendy and Atticus Gorski. In addition to her husband, Mrs. Erchinger was preceded in death by a daughter, Sheryll Erchinger Milo, in 1996. The family extends a heartfelt thank-you to her physician, Dr. Dan Coverdell, Providence Home Health nurse Linda Amundson and her care team in Alaska.
Mrs. Erchinger’s ashes will be scattered in Alaska and Washington.
Remembrances are suggested to a charity of the donor’s choice or the Mercer Island Community Fund, P.O. Box 751, Mercer Island, Wash., 98040.