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Jan (Erik) Birkeland

1969 - 2020
Jan (Erik) Birkeland Obituary
Jan Erik (Erik)


Born April 30, 1969 in Burien, WA; died January 5, 2020 in Seattle, WA. Erik spent the first three years of his life in the Seattle area before the young family moved back to Norway via Denmark to be closer to relatives. He spent his formative years in Norway, enjoying kick boxing and developing a love of sailing. Sailing was a passion that even when not on the water he thoroughly enjoyed reading about boat design and ocean-going adventurers. He returned to Seattle to get a taste of the area where he had started. Deciding this was a pretty fantastic place, he completed his college studies in Norway and then moved to Seattle in 1995.

Prior to beginning his graduate studies at Pacific Lutheran, Erik began working as an elevator operator at the Space Needle hoping to solidify his English skills. He remained at the 'Needle' while obtaining a Master of Business Administration degree, moving into the role of Attractions Manager and where he met his future wife who worked alongside him in the gift shops. Upon completing his degree, he relocated to the east coast to experience another part of America and began a career in Property Management. Erik excelled in this position and enjoyed interacting with all people - co-workers and tenants -

from around the world. In January 2005, after having returned to Seattle to work on a property on Lower Queen Anne, he was diagnosed with cancer. Many surgeries / procedures /treatments had been performed over the years, but he never lost hope or wavered in his determination to beat this back as long as possible. He coined a phrase which became his mantra and he was able to live with cancer 'only on Thursdays'. This gave him the ability to compartmentalize and ensure that the disease did not permeate every aspect of his life. He lived with great joy and never missed admiring the 'small' things. His family and friends meant the world to him. He is survived by his parents Lajla and Willy Birkeland, his sister Kristin Mi-Ai Birkeland, and his wife Sue. A celebration of his life will be scheduled around his birthday - details to follow.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the 4Ocean Project (4ocean.com) where their focus is to remove plastic from the ocean which Erik loved so much.
Published in The Seattle Times on Jan. 12, 2020
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