Gurli Ragnhild Ekberg Pedersen Nielsen Ervin. This is her story . . .
Born Gurli Nielsen, her journey began on December 4, 1925, in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the young age of four, Gurli immigrated to the United States with her mom, Ketty. Traveling by steamship across the Atlantic Ocean and then by train across Canada, her family settled in Portland, Oregon. Here she grew up and lived until moving to Seattle, Washington to raise her own family, with her husband, Larry Ervin.
As a youngster, Gurli was talented, smart, practical and independent. Growing up, Gurli always wanted to be a cowboy; however, she was born a generation too late and was afraid of horses. Though in her later years, she was quite content and happy to watch “her westerns” for hours on TV. In her younger years, Gurli loved going to the movies with her mother and two sisters, Grethe and Marian, on Saturday afternoons. As a teenager during WWll, she could be found at local USO clubs dancing with the sailors in town on shore leave. Oh, did she love to dance! Gurli was a beautiful young woman and she was once a Rose Princess and a member of Portland’s Rose Festival Court.
Gurli grew up knowing she always wanted a family and with her husband, Larry, she had three children: Laurie, Daniel, and Joan. Her children were the center of her universe and she was selfless and tireless with her mom duties. Gurli loved babies and was thrilled when the four grandchildren, Ryan, Jake, Marita and Josh came into her life. And they blessed her later with six great-grandchildren. She always put family above and beyond herself.
Gurli was happiest with a well-stocked fridge and her whole family crowded around the dining table. She was an excellent cook who embraced her Danish heritage. Everyone looked for an invitation to her annual Christmas smorgasbord and people would hurry to the ‘fish’ table for bites of her prized pickled herring. Every summer, Gurli would can her own fruit and vegetables. Her kids and grandkids all looked for a jar, or two if they were lucky, of her delectable canned peaches at Christmas. Friends and family members looked to her to cater any special event from graduations to anniversary parties to weddings. Gurli’s family claims that she made the very best apple pie and cinnamon rolls - blue ribbon winners!
Weekends were another opportunity for memorable times spent with family - husband and kids and later years with grandkids. In the spring and summer, the family was fishing for trout or crappie. Time was also spent at the ocean fishing for salmon and digging for razor clams or setting crab traps or gathering oysters. If it was fall, the family was hunting for doves, quail, duck, venison and elk. Gurli was skillful at cleaning, preparing and cooking all kinds of seafood and game. Family evenings around the campfire were filled with stories and laughter and seeing who could cook the perfect s’more without burning it.
Gurli was an accomplished, self-taught seamstress and she sewed dresses for her daughters and Pendleton wool shirts for her husband and son. She made clothes, darned socks, created curtains, bedspreads and pillows. Around the house she repaired, painted and made things work. There was pretty much nothing she couldn’t do if she put her mind to it. She passed this enthusiasm and confidence on to her kids and encouraged them to reach for their goals no matter what they were.
When the family was all taken care of, Gurli would take some time for herself . . . Friday mornings were always spent having coffee with one of her friends, notably her best friend, Dorothy. Gurli was an accomplished bowler (and even bowled several perfect 300 scores). She did needlework, knitted, crocheted, painted landscapes in acrylic paints and dabbled in ceramics. She was a woman with a wide variety of interests and always eager to try something new.
Tradition and holidays were a special time for Gurli. She celebrated everyone’s birthday by making them their favorite meal and special dessert. Even when her kids were grown, Easter at Gurli’s house meant hidden Easter baskets and coloring Easter eggs. Christmas was the most cherished holiday and she decorated the whole house with Danish julenisse, greenery and homemade ‘ice’ candles. The windows were painted with Christmas scenes and the house always had multiple Christmas trees - the formal flocked tree upstairs, the casual tree downstairs. Her kids even got little decorated trees in their bedrooms. It was a time for family and baking and gifts from ‘Santa.’
Gurli loved outdoor flowering plants, especially azaleas and rhododendrons. There was something blooming in her yard practically year round, from the first little blooms of crocus pushing their purple and gold heads up through the winter snow to the brilliant fall colors of maples. Her perennial garden was planted to give her fresh flowers through each of the seasons. Besides her blooming yard, one corner by her garage was saved for her tomato plants. Every year she competed with her neighbors and very good friends, Rich and Nephi, for the biggest and most tomatoes. And she won nearly every year. Gurli’s green thumb was pretty much focused on her outside gardens and it didn’t extend to indoor green plants. If you were an indoor potted plant in Gurli’s home, you were doomed to a short life as she would most certainly forget to water you.
Say ‘road trip?’ and Gurli was first in line, with the car packed and all ready to go. She loved to travel to old haunts and relive wonderful times and to also take the unbeaten path to new locations and destinations. On one road trip from Washington to California, her daughter, Joan commented “Mom, you are just like a German Shepherd. Put you in a car with your head out the window and you are happy as can be.” Gurli turned and gave Joan a disgusted look and said “I am incensed! I’m NOT a German Shepherd, I am a Golden Retriever!”
Thank you mom, for your values, ethics, patience, guidance, creativity, and most of all for your unending and continuing love.
Gurli passed peacefully and quietly, on Sunday, January, 9th, 2022, just a month after celebrating her 96th birthday. She was taking an afternoon nap with family at her side. She is now dancing and cooking and loving her next life as she is surrounded by loved ones who have gone ahead of her. We know she is happy and smiling down on us every time we see a stunning sunrise, beautiful rainbow or spectacular sunset.
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