She married the late Srecko Nikolich in 1947 and together they immigrated in 1951 with their infant son through Ellis Island in New York before settling in Chicago, where they lived before retiring to Cape Coral, FL in 1987. Upon arriving in America their luggage was stolen, leaving them with only the clothes on their backs and less than $200, which had taken them four years to save. Erika and Srecko were married for 60 years. Inspired by their early struggles and a faith in the American dream, they went on to sponsor and support dozens of family members and friends in the efforts to come to this country – helping with their employment, lending money and offering housing until the new immigrants got on their feet. Meanwhile, they also sent funds and medicine to struggling relatives and friends who were still recovering from World War II…often borrowing money to do it.
Erika worked for many years as a flight kitchen supervisor for United Airlines, where she helped prepare meals for the Chicago Cubs baseball team’s chartered flights out of O’Hare Airport. She and her husband traveled widely and she enjoyed frequent marathon bingo games with her friends and periodic trips to Las Vegas, where her favorite performer was, Tom Jones. Erika and Srecko were fortunate to be able to retire early and enjoy almost 20 years of watching sunsets from the poolside dock of their home along the Rubicon Canal in Cape Coral.
Erika and her husband were active members and supporting founders of St. Sava Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church in North Port.
Erika was overjoyed last year to greet the arrival of her first great grand-daughter, Olive Fiona Ray.
She is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Gojan and Leslie Nikolich of Eagle, CO; Granddaughter, Lauren and husband Aaron Ray, and great granddaughter Olive of Denver, CO; sister Anna Kalisch of Germany; sister-in-law Rajka Erich and husband Dusan of Illinois along with numerous nieces and nephews; including Micky and Lilly Spaic of Naples; Cica Ludwig of Illinois; Natalie Ludwig of Pennsylvania and Olja and Perry Lutz of Redmond, WA.
Erika was a kind, un-complaining soul whose gentle personality endeared her to anyone she met. She is loved and will be missed by all who knew her.
Visitation will be held at Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery, 1630 SW Pine Island Road, Cape Coral, FL 33991, Tuesday, Jan. 11, from 1 to 2 p.m., Services at 2 p.m. and burial to follow immediately after at Coral Ridge Cemetery. Please visit www.coralridgefuneralhome.com to leave online thoughts and memories for her family.