Erik K. Jensen, 89, of Oak Park, died on Nov. 29, 2018. Born on Dec. 18, 1928, he was a veteran of the U.S. Army, Korea. He owned and operated Nielsen’s Restaurant, Erik’s Deli, and Erik and Me for many years before his retirement in 1987. He then began a second career serving as executive director of the Illinois Restaurant Association. He also served as a board member of the National Restaurant Association and was a member of the River Forest Tennis Club, a board member of the West Cook YMCA, a member of the Lions Club, and a longtime member of United Lutheran Church in Oak Park. He volunteered with West Suburban PADS (now Housing Forward) and West Suburban Hospital.
In his column on Dec. 8, 2009, Dan Haley described Nielsen’s and Erik’s Deli as “two of Oak Park’s pioneering hot spots.”
“Erik’s Danish Delicatessen came to Oak Park Avenue in the early 1980s,” Haley wrote. “It was the casual family-friendly offshoot of the elegant Nielsen’s Restaurant, 7330 W. North Ave. in Elmwood Park. Nielsen’s, since bulldozed and replaced by Binny’s Beverage Depot, specialized in Swedish dishes and was the spot you went for anniversaries or when company arrived on a jet plane from out of town after having called you via long distance.
“The owner was a distinguished gentleman from River Forest. Erik Jensen looked good in a suit and he was an early investor in this newspaper. That made him one of the 60 or so people of that era who had a thousand bucks they could afford to lose if the paper went down the drain, as it very nearly did. Repeatedly.
“Erik’s Deli was an immediate smash, catering to different crowds, different parts of the day. It was filled with moms and strollers late morning, local business folks at noon, high schoolers after the afternoon bell, and families crowded in for dinner. Long lines and great service in an informal setting made it unlike anything Oak Park had ever seen.”
He started snow skiing at age 40, was an avid water skier, and loved parasailing. He was a passionate sailor and loved to be on any lake, sea or ocean.
Erik Jensen was the husband of Bebsie (nee Nielsen); the father of Kimberly (Bruce) Wojack and Dawn Jensen; grandpa of Erik Jacob “Jake” and Emma Jensen Wojack; brother of John (Marion) Jensen and the late Erving (Beverly) Jensen and Edna McLain; brother-in-law of Pearl (James) Gould; and the uncle of many.
Visitation is Tuesday Dec. 4 from 3 to 8 p.m. at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St., Oak Park. A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m. at United Lutheran Church, 409 Greenfield Ave., Oak Park.
Interment is private.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Danish Home of Chicago (www.danishhomeofchicago.org), or United Lutheran Church (www.unitedlutheranchurch.org) are appreciated.