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In Memoriam of Toni Erickson, RN, LM - Beloved Licensed Midwife, 1938-2012

by Nancy Spencer, Ann Olsen, and Mif Carlson

KINDNESS is perhaps the universal word, echoed by everyone who met Toni Erickson, to describe her unfailing love and goodness which she lavished on her moms and dads and babies throughout her career. She always believed that ‘it was how you made people feel’, that was important.

She continued to be a light for positive change in her many years as a labor and delivery nurse, first in California, and then in Enumclaw for the last 40 years. In the early 1990's Toni added Licensed Midwife to her sterling credentials, and kept her active practice at Enumclaw as well. Many times she'd come home from an all-night birth at a woman's house 30 miles away, to turn around immediately when called by Enumclaw Memorial Hospital to come in and support a new mother in her labor. "I'm exhausted" did not escape her lips, though she must have had a few moments of "tired old bones" as she continued her full-time career into her 70's. Always having more energy than anyone around her, she never drove anywhere without coffee.

She was the clearest embodiment of the love of God, and she was passionate about helping young mothers, pregnant teenagers, families down on their luck. Several of those homeless teens lived in her home for months, as she mothered them, so that they could mother their own babies. Her love grew tentacles of affection and tenderness she wrapped around everyone she knew, and it seemed that she knew just about everyone or someone they were related to. She trained many midwifery students who when on to have their own respected practices. Toni's spontaneous and warm-hearted hugs enveloped all she met. The genuineness of her spirit coupled with a sharp mind, a clear wit, a keen sense of appropriate action in her practice and her life, and a loyalty that never failed are a testimony to what is best in midwifery, and in human nature. The night before she died, we were watching TV with her. Somewhere in the script a voice said, “She Lived What She Believed”. I looked at her, somewhere beyond the bi-pap machine and saw a spark in her eye. Isn’t that how you lived your life Toni? A slow nod, yes, followed.

When Enumclaw Memorial Hospital became St. Elizabeth, part of the Franciscan system of healthcare, a labor room was named for Toni Erickson-- a lasting tribute to the care and kindness she distributed everywhere she went. Toni cherished her 10 children, and adored her good husband Ken, (as she said to me in her last weeks, when words came few and precious). Toni made everyone she knew feel like family. How can one describe in a few words the legacy of this fine woman? Her life was well-lived, full of love and kindness, rich beyond measure, a memory that will always be delicious, just like her favorite chocolate.