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November 22, 1950 - June 22, 2012


Arlon James "Lon" Christensen, passed away June 22, 2012, at the age of 61, in Medford, Ore. He was the founder of Northwest Seasonal Workers Association, a union carpenter, U.S. Army veteran, and a working-class leader whose devotion to the workers' cause was internationally recognized by citizens of other countries from Mexican migrant farm workers to dignitaries representing the People's Republic of China in the United States.

Lon, a third-generation Oregonian, was born in Medford. He became the man of the house at age ten after his parents divorced and took on a large share of the responsibility of raising his younger brother, John. The poverty and hardship his family experienced guided his life's work.

He was an athlete on both the Medford and Ashland High School football and track teams and served in the U.S. Army.

After winning a one-and-a-half-year custody battle for his daughter, Tonja, Lon married Charlotte Marie Yeoman in 1971. Their daughter, Jessica Marie, was born in 1973.

Lon worked on major construction projects as an apprentice of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Local 2067, including the press building for the Medford Mail Tribune and as a rigger on the Lost Creek Dam Intake Tower.

Lon, together with his wife, Charlotte, established Northwest Seasonal Workers Association (NSWA) on February 1, 1976, as a membership association of workers in the timber, agricultural, and service industries. He established a free-of-charge benefit program including emergency food, clothing, medical, and legal assistance and a job board. He founded the Jackson County Fuel Committee (JCFC) and was on JCFC's Board of Governors. Under Lon's leadership, NSWA provided demonstrations of labor solidarity to the Jackson County Employees Association and the Communications Workers of America labor actions in 1981 and 1983, supported the American Postal Workers Union, and backed the International Woodworkers of America and Amalgamated Transit Union in their strikes in the 1980s and 1990s. Lon joined the board of Jackson County Mental Health Advisory Committee in 1978, and became its Chairman. In 1988, he attended meetings of the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs. He accepted the position of Vice President of the Community Housing Resource Board of Jackson and Josephine Counties. February 14, 1988, Lon secured NSWA's current office and led crews of volunteers in restoring the historic building. As an experienced organizer, Lon provided tactical training and strategic leadership to associations throughout the Northwest.

On April 15, 2011, Lon's doctors in Medford discovered a grade-four brain tumor. Lon felt everyone should have the prompt medical attention and high quality medical care he was receiving. He faced his 14-month fight with brain cancer with courage and resolve. Lon always embraced his challenges, fought to end poverty, and to elevate other members of the working class through organization. He is mourned by hundreds of volunteer organizers across the nation and by tens of thousands of members of the organizations he helped to build.

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Charlotte; daughters, Tonja Andreatta and Jessica Hickman (Dale); granddaughter, Ashlee Hickman; mother, Nelle Christensen; sisters, Katie (Bob) Romig, Diane Reichert, and Laura Christensen; brother, John (Gwen) Christensen; as well as many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Donations in Lon's memory may be made to NSWA, 203 N Oakdale, Medford, OR 97501.