Erika Nord Richards never seemed to age. She died Feb. 13, 2019, seven weeks shy of her 103rd birthday, still young in mind, spirit, and body. The most frequent word used to describe Erika is “amazing.” Until December, Erika took twice-daily walks, swam on Sundays, played bridge five times a week, completed Sudoku puzzles every morning, and enjoyed social and cultural events. She was a model of how to live -- with zest, optimism, integrity, and a kind heart. If someone suggested an activity, she enthusiastically answered, “Yes, why not?” Erika was born April 7, 1916 in Berlin, Germany, to Walter and Herta Nord and was raised in Hamburg. She enjoyed field hockey, sailing, and gymnastics. After studying two years in Sweden, Erika came to America in 1936 with $10 in her pocket and settled in Chicago (thanks to a young doctor she had met in Germany, who eventually became her husband). Erika earned a physical therapy certificate from Northwestern University.
Soon after becoming a citizen, she joined the U.S. Army in 1944. As a PT, she treated wounded soldiers while assigned to the 155th General Hospital in England. After marrying Dr. Richard K. Richards in 1946, she settled in Waukegan, Illinois, where they raised their daughter, Evelyn. While Erika worked as a PT, Richard started the pharmacology department at Abbott Laboratories and rose up the research ranks and also served as a professor at Northwestern’s Medical School. Erika became deeply involved in the community, from being a Girl Scout leader to helping improve school curriculum to being a founding member of the League of Women Voters there. She eventually became a lifetime League member after 50 years. In 1966, the family moved to Los Altos. As part of the LWV, Erika initiated offering voter registration to newly naturalized citizens in Santa Clara County. She worked part-time as a PT in Los Altos and Mountain View convalescent hospitals. Around 1980 she and Richard moved to Los Altos Square. The couple enjoyed many travels, with Erika often adding to her collections of spoons, pendant necklaces, artwork of water scenes, and rocks. Sadly, Richard died in early 1983. Erika continued traveling, reaching all continents but Antarctica, and enjoyed attending symphony concerts and theatre; gardening (especially orchids); reading; participating in Great Decisions groups; and playing bridge. She volunteered at El Camino Hospital for 20 years, and at the Palo Alto Cultural Center. She was a member of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto In 2005, Erika became an inaugural resident of the Vi Palo Alto retirement community. Erika played bridge four days a week there, weekly at Little House in Menlo Park, and monthly at the Menlo Circus Club, forming friendships she cherished. “I don’t know what I would do without bridge,” Erika often said. She was the oldest resident of Vi Independent Living and navigated the large building with only a cane. Erika loved the frequent contact with her brother Helmut of Pennsylvania, who survives her, and with her brother Achim before his death. She is survived by her close Palo Alto family of Evelyn; son-in-law, Greg Pickrell; and granddaughter, Liana. A celebration of life will be held at 2 p.m. March 21 at the Vi, 620 Sand Hill Road, Palo Alto. To honor Erika’s memory, please consider a donation to the League of Women Voters or the American Red Cross.