Alice “Lorna” Grieb was born at home on what is now Todd Lane in Arroyo Grande, California on February 25, 1926, the 7th of nine children (third daughter). In her early childhood she was often ill and missed a lot of school. Her parents often called the family doctor to make home visits. Eventually, she began to thrive and kept up with her 6 brothers quite well. Lorna was a tomboy and loved spending time more with her brothers than her two sisters. She loved to play outdoors and found it to be drudgery to be called into the kitchen for cooking and cleaning tasks. On Saturdays, she hiked, rode horseback to the beach or played in the creek on hot days. She enjoyed outings and camping trips with family. Lorna hated wearing shoes and one of her teachers once sent a note home to her mother saying that if the family couldn’t afford to buy her shoes that she would provide them. Her mother was very embarrassed!
Always the Animal Lover and the Crafter
She loved animals and always had a number of cats as pets. She dressed them in doll clothes, gave them buggy rides and told them all her troubles. You can imagine her consternation when her brother Carl, ever the entrepreneur, sold her new litter of kittens! She learned to sew at an early age (she says 2″“ grade) when she wanted a pair of shorts and took apart an old dress, cut out the shorts and sewed them up. Her mother was quite surprised at her ingenuity. She took knitting lessons in San Luis Obispo at Sinsheimers store and did so well that she was able to teach her mother how to knit also. She excelled in sewing and knitting all of her life. She made dance costumes for several nieces. She sewed beautiful wedding gowns and attendant dresses for her two daughters and a granddaughter and designed quilts and afghans for charity. As a young adult she developed a love of music and art. She took piano lessons and played the cello in the school orchestra. She was always drawing and sketching things in her notebooks.
As a teenager she attended dances on Saturday nights at the “rat races” in downtown Arroyo Grande, chaperoned, mostly by brothers Stan and Ted. It was at one of these dances at age 16 that she met Merriam Erickson, an army private stationed at Camp San Luis. They corresponded for several years after he was shipped overseas during World War II.
Lorna graduated from Arroyo Grande High School in June of 1944 and enrolled in San Luis Obispo Junior College majoring in Art.(at the time on the same campus as the San Luis Obispo High School). After a year she asked her parents to allow her to attend Woodbury College in Burbank, CA to further her study of art. Her parents ﬁnally approved and it was arranged when Merriam returned to California in 1946. So instead of completing college, she got married. A fact she at times lamented.
Early Married Years
Lorna and Merriam were married in her parent’s home on February 22, 1946. She was just three days shy of her 20th birthday. Merriam was 28. Merriam’s years in the army brought out the wandering spirit in him and throughout their marriage they had many adventures as they moved from place to place —Minnesota, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho. Lorna had two daughters Sandi Marie born July 1947 and Cyndy Jean born April 1954. During their growing up years she was a Camp Fire Girl leader, 4-H leader and church volunteer. Each and every day her life demonstrated how she valued her family. Lorna got her ﬁrst job after her marriage in Bemidji, Minnesota working as a stock clerk in Woolworth’s. She had many temporary jobs over the years. Many of them seasonal, like picking berries in Oregon. At one time, she had a sewing business doing alterations and once worked in a bakery, which she loved. She was a school cafeteria cook and also a cook in a private treatment facility.
The Products of Her Hands
The best experience my sister and I had observing her work habits and ethics was when she spent many summers working cutting apricots for her dad and her brother Stan. She was a whiz at cutting apricots and cut more boxes by far than any of the other workers. A few years later when her brother Stan put together the apricot cutting machine my mom and Stan’s wife Lois were the ﬁrst to test it out. It was quite something to see how well my mom did operating the new machine and how pleased her brother was. She was also a terriﬁc worker during the walnut harvest, sorting walnuts as the nuts sped by on the conveyor belt. Her hands turned black from handling the walnut husks. Through the years she managed to improve her skills in various art forms——oil painting, egg tempura, sculpting, embroidery, needlepoint and quilting. She took two commercial art correspondence courses and did well, but the nomadic lifestyle at the time made pursuing a career in that ﬁeld difficult. She excelled in making bread, pies and soups, winning many blue ribbons at fairs and baking contests. In her early 5O’s she designed and built a house in Atascadero, Ca. It seemed there was nothing she could not do —architecture, carpentry, electrical, plumbing. However, after a short time, she sold the house and moved in with her parents to care for them several years.
When Merriam retired from Cal Poly in 1980, they moved to Citrus Heights CA to be closer to their two daughters. A short time later they bought property next door to her brother Jim and his wife Frankie in Mountain Ranch, near San Andreas, CA. Over the next year or so she developed blueprints for yet another house. This time a tri-level house with a wrap around deck. The project turned out to be especially challenging. She managed the whole construction project single-handedly as by that time Merriam was ill and developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Merriam’s brother Ole and nephew Ed came out from Minnesota for several months and laid the foundation and framed the house. This project was no easy feat requiring permits and inspection approvals, ordering building supplies, drilling a well and many other details. All this at age 62 while caring for an ailing husband. Eventually, the project was abandoned, the property sold.
Lorna and Merriam moved back to Sacramento and purchased a properly near daughter Sandi. Daughter Cyndy and husband moved in with Lorna and Merriam to be of support. In April 1994, Merriam was placed in an Alzheimer’s care facility where he stayed to the end of his life. After 49+ years of marriage Merriam passed away in 1995. Lorna struggled to heal emotionally from the loss of her husband and physically from a broken hip but continued to excel in all her artistic talents, making many one of a kind gifts for friends and family as well as donating quilts and knitted blankets to charity.
Back to Her Birthplace
In 2001 she happily moved from Sacramento to Arroyo Grande where she reconnected with friends and church family from years ago. She enjoyed hosting brunches, lunches, Bible Studies in her home. Feeding people delicious homemade food was one of the things she loved best. In 2002, she moved in with daughter Sandi to what is now the Grieb Farmhouse Inn—the original home of her grandparents Katharina and Konrad Grieb on Todd Lane. Always the giver, she preferred to remain in the background, never expecting recognition or acclaim. Her selﬂessness was a model for everyone who knew her. She always kept busy as a volunteer for the local food closet, Habitat for Humanity and various quilting guilds. She sewed projects for her church including the offering bags and the choir robes. The day was never complete unless she took time for herself to read, complete a crossword puzzle and enjoy a few good cups of hot, green tea. In the end, she was an inspiration to all her family and friends as she struggled daily with various forms of cancer. She never wavered in her faith and gratitude for a life well-lived. It is amazing that she was born and died within a 100 feet of each other. She is buried in the Arroyo Grande Cemetery with her husband Merriam Erickson and next to her son-in-law Floyd Ferrio. The same cemetery where her grandparents, parents and ﬁve siblings are buried. Our family stays together in life and death.
Alice Lorna Grieb Erikson – February 25, 1926 — September 2, 2013 – 87 years, 6 months, 8 days
Written by Sandi Ferrio