Erika E. Winkler, in memory.
A long-time family friend while we have lived in Massachusetts sent me a metaphoric description of Erika in his condolence message. In it, he likened Erika to Eshet Ḥayil, the biblical “woman of valor.” It included praise for the “good wife” and the “ideal woman,” defined as an industrious home manager, an enterprising businesswoman, a generous friend, and a wise teacher—the personification of wisdom. I love and totally agree with these characteristics of Erika, and therefore appropriated them without hesitation for my own eulogy.
Erika and I knew each other for more than six decades, during which we relied on each other through thick and thin. There is no reason to think that I could have succeeded in anyway or anything without her support and help. She was the cornerstone on which our lives were built and our accomplishments achieved. I am grateful to have met her and to have lived with her for such a long time. Through her I met her whole family and respected all of its members. They were and still are very special to me.
Erika Winkler was a very gifted person, open-minded to all kinds of experiences. She first came to the United States from Germany in the fifties, as an exchange student in Asheboro, North Carolina. There, she completed her senior year at the Farmer High School, sponsored by the family of Robert Gayle Hussey, Sr. and Inez Trogdon Hussey, whom she loved and respected all her life. She stayed in touch with her “American” family through Caroline Freeman, Bob and Betty Hussey, and Judy and Richard Potthoff, and always loved reminiscing about her wonderful experiences. In North Carolina, Erika played violin with the regional youth symphony.
After her return from the USA, Erika decided to train as a simultaneous translator in German, French and English. She studied French at the Alliance Française Paris Ile-de-France and attended lectures at the Sorbonne Université in Paris and became a licensed “Dolmetscher” cum “Simultaneous Translator.” Her dream was to simultaneously translate at sessions of the United Nations. She stood for international peace and security, friendly relations among nations, and international cooperation. Her first major assignment was to work as translator in the Office of Foreign Affairs for Chemie Grünenthal GmbH, a pharmaceutical company in Stolberg, Germany. It was at Chemie Grünenthal GmbH that she met Dietmar Winkler, a graphic designer and her future husband.
Erika grew up on Rittergut Böckel, in Bieren, Germany on what was considered one of the larger farm-estates in the district of Herford. The Böckel and its adjacent Waghorst estates together covered more than 1,235 acres. It belonged to Hertha Koenig (1884–1976), a Westphalian author, who was also hosting an Art, Literature, and Philosophy Salon in Munich to celebrate and promote the most important writers, philosophers, and artists of her time. Gut Böckel also served as a venue for her private cultural events. She created an extensive art collection, which, in addition to three paintings by Picasso and works by Ferdinand Hodler, Emil Nolde, and Paul Klee, are now part of several prominent American art collections. After the Second World War, Hertha Koenig cultivated acquaintances and correspondence with numerous prominent personalities, including Carl Jacob Burckhardt, the Swiss historian; Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher; and Theodor Heuss, the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Heinrich Meier, Erika’s father, was a schooled farm and estate manager. Erika’s mother Emmi Meier was educated in running estate households at the “von Bodelschwinghsche Stiftungen Bethel” before she married Erika’s father. Emmi was an avid reader of literature, a skilled artisan, and an ingenious cook. Neighbors remember her as a generous, friendly, and kind person.
When Dietmar Winkler went to the USA in 1959 to study American use of metaphors in advertising at Rhode Island School of Design, Erika followed in January 1960 to join him in Providence. In 1960, members of the Hussey family, Erika’s high school foreign exchange hosts, along with the help of other North Carolinians, sponsored both Erika Meier and Dietmar Winkler to enter the USA as permanent residents. Soon after, the Hussey family generously hosted their wedding at their home on July 8, 1960 among a loving circle of family and friends. Robert Gayle Hussey, Sr. gave the bride away at the first Methodist Church of Ashboro, Randolph County, North Carolina, witnessed by Richard Potthoff of Greensboro, North Carolina. Erika and I have always been grateful for the warmth and friendship we received from the entire Hussey family and their generous community.
At the outset of her married life, Erika worked in for the Brown University Rockefeller Library in Providence, commuting there from Boston, then Cambridge, then Easton, Massachusetts, for many years. She eventually decided to change positions and began to work for Howard Kirshen, a printing broker, and later for Summit Press as a manager when the owner had a heart attack and had to withdraw and recuperate. During that time, she learned everything about offset printing and type production and eventually opened her own printing company just north of Boston in Malden, Massachusetts.
Erika had a keen business sense. During a slack in the local economy at the time of an International Boston Printing Exhibition, she made a fortuitous proposal. A Japanese company that produced highly competitive equipment for offset printing could neither sell nor wanted to ship the equipment back to Japan after the exhibition, so Erika arranged to purchase a very expensive piece of offset production equipment in a very low loan arrangement. The success of Aldus Press, Inc. was built upon that deal.
At Aldus, she had a loyal partner, Alexander Catalani, who was an expert in print-room production and in film and plate preparation for offset printing. Together they quickly established a high-quality product and produced work for the many regional universities as well as many regional Fortune-500 companies.
Things changed considerably in the 1980s, amid the massive shift from traditional printing to digital production. During that time many of the excellent printing establishments in the Boston area folded because of the tremendous cost of upgrading to the new technology. Erika’ and Alexander’s Aldus Press had no financial backers, so their formerly successful printing establishment had to be closed. Erika continued to work as a salesperson for Henry Sawyer Printing, one of the oldest and most established print houses in Massachusetts, until her retirement. Still, the years at Aldus Press were her most exciting and rewarding professional years. It was hard for her to see the company vanish.
Erika will be missed by a sister, many in-laws, many cousins in Germany and Mexico, and many old and new friends. Our neighbors have been amazing hosts and friends to us for all these years. In the past years Erika longed for connections with Germany. It is my belief that when her circle of friends became smaller and smaller, she missed them all.
Sincerely, Dietmar R. Winkler, husband.
I know for sure that Erika would appreciate it if you would send flowers, or in lieu of flowers, contributions to your favorite local charities, especially to homes that care for the aged.
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