Obituaries

Erik Walter Borg, 74, previously of Middlebury

ELLESMERE PORT, U.K. — Erik Walter Borg was born on December 13, 1945, in Washington, D.C. He died unexpectedly on November 12, 2020, in Ellesmere Port, United Kingdom. The distance between these two dates and locations was filled by a life of integrity, kindness, and passion. He will be deeply missed by his family on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Growing up in Oxon Hill, Md., he developed a deep love of the outdoors, which was reinforced through his time as an Eagle Scout. Living on the edge of the segregated South, he was deeply inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and participated in the 1965 March on Selma. He was struck by the injustice he saw, and chose to actively live in a way that reflected his beliefs in equality and concern for those less fortunate.
Erik loved literature and academia. He earned a BA in English Literature at Middlebury College, and an MA at the University of Chicago, doing his thesis on the work of W.B. Yeats. It was at Middlebury that he met Susan Gallagher, and they married there in 1969. Erik was drafted soon thereafter and shipped to Okinawa. Though he was passionately against the Vietnam War, it bothered his conscience deeply that his privilege could keep him from serving, while others who didn’t have those resources had to go.
He had started taking photos in college and it quickly became a passion. Erik had an artist’s eye and an engineer’s precision; approaching photography as a craft that helped frame and explain the world. Erik took his camera wherever he went in those postgraduate years while he and Susan moved to South Boston and San Francisco. In 1971, they returned to Middlebury, Vt., and Erik worked as a freelance photographer in that community for the next 25 years.
Erik’s work as a photographer was primarily divided between publicity for Middlebury College and documenting the craftwork of Vermont’s artists and artisans. The group of photos he may be most widely known for are from 1973, when he traveled to Lapland to take pictures for National Geographic. He documented in strikingly vivid ways the lives of the Sami people, and the role that reindeer played in these indigenous communities. A photo from this collection became the cover of the September 1977 issue of National Geographic, and some of his work from this expedition is preserved in the Sami National Archives.
Erik and Susan’s daughter Kelley was born in 1974. Though they divorced in 1987, their relationship remained amicable and respectful, as they focused on their shared love for their daughter, and the principles of kindness they both lived by.
In 1996, Erik’s career and life changed course when he spent a year teaching English at the Jiangsu University of Science and Technology in China. Erik returned from that year with a deep love of China and a fascination with the process of teaching people to write academic English. He went back to school and earned an MA in TESOL and then a PhD in Academic Writing, both from the University of Leeds. While at Leeds, Erik met his second wife, Michaela (Cousins) Borg. He went on to teach at Northumbria University, and retired from Coventry University just this past summer.
Erik and Michaela built a rich life in England, full of travel and rescue dogs. Though he did gain British citizenship in 2014, he never got a British driver’s license, in part because he started biking wherever he needed to go. This soon grew into a new passion for him. He began restoring vintage bikes for local rides and with encouragement from Michaela, he began joining sportives and other unique road races. Michaela joined him in cycling, and together they traveled as far as Italy for him to ride in L’Eroica Gaiole in Chianti. In 2018, Erik cycled the length of the UK — from Land’s End to John O’Groats. He was fit and full of vigor when he took a fatal fall from one of his favorite bikes last week.
For those who knew Erik, his accomplishments were often hidden behind his innate modesty. While we will all remember his deep love of books and art, his commitment to social justice, his passion for politics (both British and American), and his extraordinary gourmet cooking — it is his quiet and thoughtful approach to others, his gentle kindness, that will be missed the most. He lived qualities that our world could use more of right now, and he set a good example for those of us he has left behind.
Erik is predeceased by his parents, Walter Theodore Borg and Evelyn Alice Nelson Borg and his brother Arthur Nelson Borg. He is survived by his wife Michaela (Cousins) Borg of Ellesmere Port, U.K., his sister Ellen (Borg) Kinzer and husband Karlton of Pennsylvania, daughter Kelley Borg Duffy and her husband Eric of Maine, and his granddaughters Helen and Fiona.
A service will be held in England on Dec. 9 and limited to immediate family because of the pandemic. The service will be streamed. Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson Funeral Directors in Ellesmere Port, U.K. Condolences, and messages for his family, may be expressed by visiting anderson-funeral-directors.co.uk. In lieu of flowers, Erik would have preferred that you donate to CAMFED, Doctors Without Borders, or your local animal rescue. ◊

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