Erika Marshall, 74, innovative teacher, Chicago Teachers Union rep

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Erika Marshall, 74, died on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011 of leukemia at Rush University Medical Center. Born in 1936 to German parents in Moscow, Russia, where her family fled after the Nazis came to power, she lived from the age of 3 on Chicago's North Side and in Hillside, attending what was then the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle and getting a master's degree in education from Elmhurst College.

Ms. Marshall became a teacher of deaf and blind children in the primary grades of the Chicago public schools for more than 40 years and developed a pioneering outreach program targeting families of pre-school children with disabilities that helped prepare them for the classroom.

"She was a wonderful, dedicated teacher," said Nancy Kurshan, a social worker with the Chicago public schools. "She would go to the homes of families with all kinds of learning challenges and work with them there. She would do whatever it took."

Ms. Marshall was also active in the Chicago Teachers Union, serving as a union representative and legislative coordinator in Springfield. Her work in the union led her at one point to picket during a strike outside a Chicago public school where her husband Marvin served as principal.

"They would wave at each other," said Lisa Derezinski, her daughter. "He would bring coffee out to the picketers."

Erika Marshall is survived by her husband, Marvin; her children, Eric and Lisa; and her four grandchildren. A memorial gathering will take place on Saturday, Feb. 19 from 3 to 5 p.m. at 721 Ontario St. in Oak Park.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to Circle Pines Center, 8650 Mullen Road, Delton, Mich. 49046 are appreciated. Arrangements were handled by Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home.

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