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Friday, January 5, 2024
9:45 - 10:45 am (Mountain time)
Friday, January 5, 2024
Starts at 11:00 am (Mountain time)
Our Father, Stephen LaMar Christensen (“Steve”), was a New Year’s baby, the second child born in the city of Provo, Utah, on January 1, 1949. He was the first of five children born to James LaMar Christensen and Glenna Simmons Christensen.
Dad was raised in Upland, California, where his father served as mayor during Ronald Reagan’s tenure as Governor of California.
Dad showed early signs of creativity. He was an admirer of Walt Disney. As a young boy, Dad created a makeshift Disneyland in his backyard and invited the neighborhood children to take a tour of it as he pulled them on a little red wagon around a homemade track to see the tiny villages and lakes he had created.
In high school, he worked at the family business, “Jim’s Texaco,” a local gas station where Dad would deliver five-star service, washing windshields with glass cleaner, a towel, and a squeegee.
He graduated from Upland High School, where he was a three-sport standout in football, baseball, and basketball, earning “All-League” distinction in all three sports. He received a baseball scholarship to Brigham Young University.
When he was only nineteen years old, Dad met the young woman who would become his one true love, his undying romance. Victoria Ann Swan (“Vickie”) was also a Freshman at BYU. Sitting on an apartment couch, waiting for somebody else, young Steve met young Vickie for the first time. Dad immediately fell in love with her as he watched her decorate a Christmas tree.
And the rest is history, as they say.
Dad and Mom got married and their first child came quickly. They had bills to pay and Dad’s athletic career began to feel like a distraction, so he hung up the cleats in exchange for the promise of earning a living.
They longed for a higher purpose. They doubled down on their commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, believing deep down that their new life together would need a solid foundation. They made a commitment, and from that point forward, they would almost never miss a Sunday service.
They were young, poor and naive, but they were hard-working and they had a vision.
Their family grew quickly, six children in all: Stephen, Stacie, McKay, David, Lisanne, and Tiffany. The young couple was forced to grow up quickly. Dad went to work while Vickie cared for the children.
They had an agreement: Dad would provide the home and Mom would provide the magic.
At Christmas time, the smell of home cooking and Christmas music filled the house: Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and Bing Crosby. And there was Mom decorating the Christmas tree and making magic, just like the moment when the two first met. Perhaps they spent more than they should on Christmas gifts for their children, but after Christmas, Dad would manage the stress of replenishing the bank account while Mom gave him comfort and thanked him for working so hard to provide for the family. He smiled in the warmth of her gratitude. His life was always about her.
They hosted parties and welcomed family, friends, and strangers into their home with warmth, kindness, and hospitality.
They hugged and kissed in the kitchen. On the weekends, Dad barbecued hamburgers on the grill and told bedtime stories under the stars on the upper deck of the house.
They raised their family in the countryside where the sky was clear, the nights were dark, and the stars were especially bright. Their home sat in the midst of two and a half acres of orange trees. Before school, the children picked cold oranges and drank freshly squeezed orange juice. They watched the early morning fog in the orchard between the trees just before the sun makes the world clear. California’s Central Valley, often known as the food basket to the world, was a good place to grow anything, including a family.
Dad’s parents gave him at least one memorable insight: that his greatest investment would always be his investment in the lives of his children. He followed that advice. Dad and Mom made great efforts to help their children build meaningful and rewarding lives.
On the walls of their home, Mom and Dad hung simple but meaningful artwork that reflected their values: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” was inscribed in needlework, framed, and hung in the family room. They held “family home evenings” on Monday nights and taught their children the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Imaginative and creative from birth, Dad was a natural entrepreneur and found himself creating businesses from scratch. When Mom and Dad were first married, he created S.C. Box Company and sold wooden boxes to flower shops and nurseries in Southern California.
Later, he built miniature golf and baseball batting cage parks in Colton and Riverside, California. He invented a baseball batting cage “in the round,” which was designed in the form of a massive circular tent enclosed in a mesh net, which had two advantages: first, it enabled batters to see the flight of the ball after they hit it, and second, it served as a massive visual attraction, drawing attention from the freeways by which these batting cages were constructed.
He moved to Fresno, California, where he built Blackbeard’s Miniature Golf, Batting Cages, and Water Slides. Still in Fresno, he would go on to become one of the largest home developers in California.
Still inspired by Walt Disney, Dad went on to create a Disney-like attraction in Utah, a massive project hosting miniature golf, a roller skating rink, a bowling alley, a massive gaming arcade, restaurants, an ice cream parlor, and a stage where singers performed live musical numbers and magicians entertained birthday parties. The grand entrance directed visitors through a scenery that looked like a European village. Because of the cold weather in Utah, the idea was to build this theme park entirely indoors. It became a local favorite, “The 49th Street Galleria,” in Murray, Utah. Its theme song, regularly playing on the local radio, seemed to be lifted straight from the theme of Dad’s own life, as he originally envisioned it with Mom so many years ago: “Come create some magic memories.”
He went on to develop the master-planned community known as Traverse Mountain, encompassing thousands of homes, office space, and retail shops in Lehi, Utah.
His entire professional career is marked by great insights of creativity followed by relentless hours of hard work and perseverance.
Dad was a masterful fisherman, and he taught his sons the art of fly fishing from the time they were young boys, but no matter how much his sons tried, they could never match Dad’s skill. Dad always landed more fish. He would often hook a fish and then pass the rod to his sons, who would enjoy the thrill of reeling it in.
They took summer vacations to beautiful campgrounds and fly-fishing hot spots, most frequently in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Dad and the boys would go fly fishing during the day. At night, they would be forced to concede to Mom’s stubborn insistence on balancing the family’s entertainment equation. One full day of fishing came at a cost. Dad and the boys would be forced to attend the Jackson Hole Playhouse where the entire family, boys included, watched performances of theater classics like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oklahoma, The Music Man, and Annie Get Your Gun. Even the boys came to know the lyrics of every musical.
Mom enrolled her daughters in dance academies and singing lessons and would attend every performance and recital.
Dad taught his sons to play football, baseball, and basketball. Drawing on his own experience as a three-sport standout, Dad attended every sporting event, looking for ways to help his sons improve. He was highly observant, and after every game, he gave insightful advice.
He donated his extra time to the church, serving in various church callings. He was a teacher, a bishop, and a stake president. Dad’s church callings often required much of his time, and Mom was always supportive, even when Dad missed dinner. He didn’t miss many as Mom’s cooking was good incentive to come home quickly.
Turning back the clock, when Dad was only 32 years old, he received a fateful diagnosis that would impact the rest of his life: type 2 diabetes.
What lay on the horizon, beyond even the vision of this insightful young man, was a series of cascading medical crises that would disrupt and destabilize his life and eventually overtake him at the age of 74.
As one medical woe classically breeds another, Dad’s health gradually and then rapidly declined: Flesh-eating disease left him nearly dead, a string of heart attacks required a heart-valve replacement, a series of cardiovascular procedures installed 24 stents in the arteries around his heart, then, he would endure two broken hips and two hip replacements while also nursing a broken arm, and at one point, Dad’s heart flatlined and he died in an ambulance, but was revived by skilled paramedics, only to sleep in a coma.
In his final moments, Dad woke from his coma to find himself surrounded by his family. He expressed his gratitude for their presence around his hospital bed.
Leaning over his hospital bed, that young girl who captured his heart at the age of 19 would now be the last kiss of his life.
He was faithful to her all the days of his life. She was with him to the end, through thick and thin.
Stephen Lamar Christensen died on December 6, 2023 in the intensive care unit of the Holy Cross Hospital in Lehi, Utah.
He leaves behind his wife and a bustling brood of six children, their spouses, and twenty grandchildren.
Friday, January 05, 2024 the Christensen family will hold a reception in Steve’s honor from 9:45-10:45 a.m at the Avonmore Building: 5848 W. 11000 N. Highland, Ut 84003. The Memorial Service will begin at 11 a.m, with a graveside celebration of life to follow.
Stephen will be laid to rest at the Highland City Cemetery: 6200 W. 11000 N Highland Utah 84003.
The service will be livestreamed on the Anderson & Goff Mortuary Facebook Page at the following link:
(The livestream video will appear when the service starts.)
Stephen Christensen - Funeral Recording.mp3