Erika Kremic died on 6 August 2013. She came of age in Germany during the Nazi era, her life and future interrupted by war. Her fortunes were later revived in New Zealand where she had a successful legal career.
Born on 17 April 1925 in Munster, Westphalia, she enrolled at the University of Munster after high school to study science but could not continue because of the war. She became a land girl and met her late husband, Todor Kremic, who was a Yugoslav former prisoner of war and a displaced person. Both emigrated to New Zealand in 1950 under the resettlement scheme for displaced persons initiated by the United Nations International Refugee Organisation.
Erika worked in various clerical jobs in Wellington, particularly in accounts. She began studying law part-time at Victoria University in 1961 while also working as an assistant land registrar at the Land Transfer Office. She was admitted to the bar in 1966 and joined Duncan Matthews & Co as a staff solicitor where she worked from January 1966 to August 1968. A stint with Buddle Anderson Kent & Co followed until she became a partner with Tripe Matthews & Feist in April 1974.
Pat Mahony who worked with her at Buddle Anderson Kent & Co, said she was intellectually very sharp and that no area of the law was beyond her reach. She concentrated on complex commercial conveyancing work and had a general practice as well.
She retired from Tripe Matthews & Feist in 1987 and was appointed by then Justice Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer as the Wellington Coroner in July 1988, succeeding Mr AG Protheroe. She remained Coroner until her retirement in 1997.
Levaia Pereia, who was Erika Kremic’s secretary during her time as Coroner, said Erika had a “simple heart” and was careful to support people in their loss.
“She avoided formality and tried to have hearings in her office to put the bereaved at their ease,” she said.
Erika had always been very keen for women to advance their education and careers and encouraged Levaia in her efforts. With Erika’s encouragement Levaia studied for a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree.
“I started my PhD but had to stop when my mother had a stroke, but I will go back to finish because that is what Erika would have wanted … She also encouraged my daughters to stay on at school and would have attended the graduation of one later this year.
“I am honoured to have known her as my boss and then as a very dear friend. She was like a grandmother to me.”
This obituary was first published in Council Brief, September 2013.