I am struggling as I attempt to write our father’s obituary. How do you possibly sum up a man’s total life on a single piece of paper, it won’t be easy but I’ll try. I could follow the usual obituary format but dad was not an ordinary man. He was special to a lot of different people. Chris was a great friend and husband to Dorna and a kind and caring father to his four daughters, and a great role model to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Dad was also a friend to anyone that needed help; it didn’t matter if he knew you for years or if he just met you.
Our father, Chris was born at home in Sargent County, N. Dakota on September 15th, 1933. He was the son of Lucille (Whitinger) Templeton, who was also born in Sargent Co., N. Dakota and Einard Christenson Sr., who was born in Hedmark, Norway. Chris was one of seven children. He is survived by his sister, Jan (Ed) Reeser, and brothers Harry (Janet) Templeton, Gary (Pat) Templeton, and Galen (Susan) Christenson. Chris was preceded in death by his infant brothers, Orland Christenson, Roger Christenson and Melvin Christenson.
In 1935, when Chris was 2 years old his family moved to Charlotte, MI to work in the automotive industry. One of Chris’s special memories growing up in Charlotte was during WWII in a paper drive. There was a contest to see who could collect the most papers. Chris and a friend each won a ride around the skies of Charlotte in an Aero-Coupe.
On October 11th, 1952 Chris married his childhood sweetheart, Dorna (Farr) Christenson at his parents’ home in Lansing, MI. They first met when they were 10 years old. They were married a couple weeks shy of 62 years. Chris and Dorna had 4 daughters. Robbyn (Craig) Coulon, Findlay, OH, Terri (Richard) Janson, Eaton Rapids, MI, Amy (J.B. Jr., deceased) Finch, Mason, MI and Gail (Bill) Herron also of Mason, MI; 7 loving grandchildren, Christen (Lanessa) Coulon, Jamye Donfrio, Jason Janson, Kory Finch, Jeremy (Jessica) Coulon, Jessica Herron and Jennifer Herron. In addition there are 10 great-grandchildren as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and close friends.
If you knew Chris then you would know that he loved anything to do with machinery. A story I’ve heard over and over again is when grandma gave dad a watch for his 5th birthday. It wasn’t long until he had the watch taken apart and pieces scattered all over the kitchen table. “I wanted to see how it worked”, Dad told his mother. It wasn’t long till the watch was all put back together and it began ticking again.
Chris was an expert mechanic. He ran his own auto repair business for over 50 years. This was in addition to working a full time job with the state of Michigan Highway Department as a master mechanic. It is very fortunate when a man is lucky enough to have his passion also be his livelihood. He enjoyed spreading his wisdom to younger workers, his grandchildren, nephews, and friends. Chris also had his dealer’s license and enjoyed buying and selling cars and shared a car lot business for many years with a friend.
Chris’s free ride on the Aero-Coupe must have made quite an impression on him because in 1983 Chris earned his pilot’s license and later bought a Piper Cherokee 180 which he owned for about 10 years. I think the high point of his flying career was when he and 3 of his friends took the 90 mile trip across Lake Michigan to the annual Oshkosh, Wisconsin EAA Air Venture Fly In.
In 1986 Chris bought and restored a 1936 Ford, Deluxe 5 Window Coupe to its original condition. He worked on it for 3 years, spending an average of 30 hours per week. He took every bolt and nut out of it and had the frame dipped. That car scored a total of 994 points out of 1000 from the Early Ford V-8 Club. The car also had a rumble seat which his grandchildren enjoyed riding in.
There was a car show in St. Ignace that Mom and Dad wanted to attend with their 36 Ford. They had to cross the Mackinaw Bridge of course to get to the U.P. It was a rainy and windy afternoon and Mom who was deathly afraid of heights was not too crazy about crossing the bridge at all. When they were ½ across, the car stopped. Our Cousin David was in the car in front of them and he offered to tow them across. Mom said she held on for dear life as she stepped out of the car so Dad could get the cable from under their seat. Then like magic …when they got to the other side…and the car started right up.
We used to sit together and laugh about the stories my father remembered about his life growing up, he sure had a lot of youthful hijinks. Stories told to me our uncles, Harry and Gary and our Aunt Jan showed a different side of my father. When he was young and after grandma’s 2nd husband died, Chris got a paper route and gave the money he earned to his mother to help with groceries. Aunt Jan told us how dad used to walk her back and forth to school.
On September 27th, 2014 Chris was surrounded by family and friends as he lost his struggle for life. Chris will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him.
At Chris’s request, a memorial service and burial will be a private event for immediate family only. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to the Hospice of Lansing, Stoneleigh Residence, 3411 Stoneleigh Dr., Lansing, MI 48910. The family of Chris Christenson wishes to thank the Stoneleigh Hospice for their care, comfort and support. Arrangements are by the Estes-Leadley Holt/Delhi Chapel.