February 3, 1928 - January 21, 2017
Virginia Christensen, 88, of Ashland, Oregon passed away Saturday, January 21, 2017. She was born Virginia Thompson in Portland, Ore. to Matthew Roy and Helen King Thompson. The family lived in Portland, then Ashland, Prairie City, Salem, Sweet Home, and finally Monmouth, where her father was principal of the high school. She had fond early memories of Ashland, where as a small child she rode her tricycle down Church Street to the fountain in Lithia Park. The elder Thompsons were mountaineers and avid campers and they led their five children on many a hike and climb in Oregon and Washington.
In 1944 the family moved to Iowa City, Iowa where her father taught navigation to Navy pilots in training. Virginia graduated from University High School in Iowa City in 1946. She returned to Oregon after graduation and worked as a shorthand-typist in the Eugene office of the higher education chancellor.
She entered the University of Oregon in 1947. She majored in English and roomed in University House, where she became friends with a girl from Coos Bay named Eunice Peterson. During their summers Virginia and Eunice worked as singing waitresses at Paradise Lodge on Mount Rainier. On her days off, Virginia donned hiking boots and rambled all over the mountain.
Eunice introduced Virginia to her handsome brother, Bert Peterson who was building several sawmills in Coos and Curry counties. Soon Bert was driving regularly from Coos Bay to Eugene (and, during summers, all the way to Mount Rainier) to visit his sister and his sweetheart.
Virginia graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. In 1951 she and Bert Peterson were married. They moved to Coos Bay, into a house Bert built for her. While he tended his sawmills, she cared for their first three daughters, Gail, Melinda, and Lauren. Daughter number four, Leslie, came along after the family moved to Port Orford in 1957. The Petersons returned to Coos Bay in 1959. Virginia played the organ at Emmanuel Episcopal Church and took her girls to many musical and cultural events. They also enjoyed hiking, camping, and picnics at the beach.
The family moved to Ukiah, California in 1965. She and Bert divorced soon after and Virginia began her career as a social worker. In 1968 she moved with her daughters to Vancouver, Wash. and earned a master degree in social work from Portland State College in 1970. She worked in Oregon’s adult and family services agency in Salem then opened a private practice helping elderly and disabled clients. On weekends she took the girls hiking and backpacking. She climbed Mount Rainier with her brother Paul when they were both well into middle age.
Her retirement was one long adventure. She journeyed to Boston to set foot on ancestral turf — Thompson’s Island in Boston Harbor. She spent a year in Chengdu, China, teaching English to university students. She saw Paris, Tahiti, Moscow, Uzbekistan, Tibet, Denali, and Australia. She traveled the blue highways of the West in her little red camper, Rosebud.
In 2001, back in Iowa City for a high school reunion, she got reacquainted with Marvin Christensen. They’d both sung in a school production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe. They were married and lived in Marvin’s lake house in northern Minnesota in the summers and wintered in Texas. They moved to Oregon in 2005, finally settling in Ashland. Marvin died in 2013.
Virginia is survived by her sister, Ann (Thompson) Neuman; sister-in-law, Eunice Peterson; daughters, Gail (Peterson) Wells, Melinda Peterson, Lauren (Peterson) Chilson, and Leslie (Peterson) Stone; stepdaughter, Barbara Christensen Kamp; stepson, Steve Christensen; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
She lived boldly, loved deeply, held her opinions fiercely, and always cherished a good debate. She will be greatly missed.
A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, February 18, 2017 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 717 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland, Ore. Please send condolences, memories, and happy thoughts to Leslie Stone, 700 Windemar, Ashland Ore. 97520.