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Obituary of Mildrene (Millie) Hale Christensen
Announcement of the Death of
Mildrene (Millie) Hale Christensen
December 16, 1927 – April 22, 2020
Teacher, Hostess, Wife, Mother, Grandma
Millie Hale Christensen, mother of Michael, Jeff and Steve Christensen, and wife of the late Val J. Christensen of Point Loma Nazarene University, died peacefully at Canyon Villas Retirement Center on April 22, 2020, at 92 years of age, in the presence of her sons Michael and Steve and caregiver Teresa Duncan.
On Friday, May 8, a family circle will gather at her church to pray a prayer of commendation before going to Miramar National Cemetery for the burial. Under current COVID restrictions, no chapel services are permitted on the premises. Only 10 family witnesses can be outside to view the casket being moved from hearse to grave. As Dad wrote in his hand-written autobiography (recently discovered): “We plan to be buried together in the Veteran’s Cemetery at Miramar and lay there until the Rapture when we will be reunited with everyone again.”
Later, when the state opens up and allows for larger gatherings, the family will hold a Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Mildrene Louise Hale Christensen at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene. In the meantime, personal notes, messages, or cards are appreciated and can be sent or emailed to the family in c/o Michael Christensen (firstname.lastname@example.org) (3205 Carleton St, San Diego, CA 92106)
Memorial gifts can be designated for the Val and Millie Christensen Science Scholarship
and be sent to Point Loma Nazarene University (3900 Lomaland Drive, SD, CA 92106).
Point Loma Nazarene University is a legacy school for the Christensen family. Millie’s survivors include:
- Michael (‘77) and his wife, Rebecca Laird (‘82), who is currently a professor in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry, and their children Rachel (‘12) and Megan (‘15).
- Jeffrey (‘78) and his wife, Mardie Caldwell Christensen, and their children: Andrew
and his wife, Whitney; Amber (‘06) and her husband, Zach; Kevin (‘09); and Alyc (‘12).
- Steven (‘83) and his wife, Renee, currently PLNU’s university cashier, and their children: Lauren (‘15); Danielle (‘17); and Sarah, who graduated year last (‘19).
- Millie’s seven great-grandchildren include: Elka, Liv, Crew, Brielle, Kael, Camille, and Pierce Christensen
Millie’s story of began in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on December 16, 1927, and ended on April 22, 2020, during the Great COVID-19 global pandemic (though not due to it). Between these two great social crises there lived a brave and elegant woman of faith who by that time she was 92 had nurtured a family of 26, taught a generation of second graders, cared for others, traveled the world, left a legacy, and was known in college and church circles as a kind, courageous, sweet, proud, and generous woman who lived to serve and died in peace.
The oldest daughter of Leonard and Margaret Martin Hale, Millie Louise was born on December 16, 1927, at the beginning of the Great Depression in America. Her sister, Loveta Mae, was born six years later. During the Great Depression, Leonard had to sell his barbershop and move the family to his brother’s farm in South Texas. He built a little house for the cost of materials ($86) and tried farming for a while. After 11 months of “hard work, too little pay”, the family moved back to Oklahoma. Leonard returned to cutting hair, Margaret got a job at Montgomery Wards, and the growing family of four lived together in a little two-bedroom house with an outhouse, rented for $7/mo. In 1940, when Millie was 13, they bought 739 South Louisa Street which had three bedrooms and a bath for $1,800. Finally, they built their dream house at 1121 North Beard St—a beautiful, one-story, red brick home with all the modern conveniences that we three boys remember so well. “We never went hungry, we did okay,” Leonard remined his family at the end of the Depression.
Millie grew up and was nurtured as a Christian in Shawnee Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma. She graduated from Bethany Peniel Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University) with a BS in Home Economics in 1945. There she met and married Val J. Christensen, a chemistry major and future Professor of Chemistry, Science Division Chair, and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Point Loma Nazarene University (1960-1996).
Millie supported her husband through graduate school by working as a secretary for the Salvation Army in Lawrence, Kansas, and completing her provisional certificate and credential from the Kansas State Department of Public Instruction to teach elementary school for the 1950-51 school term.
After grad school the couple moved to Freeport, Texas where Val worked as a chemical engineer at Dow Chemical Company. They rented a nice apartment and signed up to buy a newly built 1,000 sq ft 3-bedroom house in Lake Jackson on Gulf of Mexico. Millie enjoyed the traditional role as homemaker and soon to be mother of three: Michael (born in 1953), Jeffrey (in 1955), and finally Steven (in 1960).
After seven years at Dow, Dad was recruited by Pasadena College to teach chemistry and head their Science and Math Division. Mom agreed to sell her lovely house with its recent addition and move her family of five to California. They packed up their Super 88 Olds to the brim, and with their three boys in tow (Baby Steve just 3 months old), drove down Route 66 until they arrived in Pasadena in the summer of 1960. They eventually settled at 1630 North Hill Street, around the corner from the college.
Mom first taught Home Economics at Pasadena College, then at John Muir High School, and finally found her joy teaching elementary school (first grade and then second grade) at Pasadena Christian School. After the College moved to San Diego in 1973, she was hired by the famous “Left Behind” author/preacher, Tim LaHaye, to teach second grade in the Christian Unified Schools of San Diego. Judging by ample letters and testimonies, Millie was an inspirational teacher. As Erika wrote: “I love you so much. You help me with my work and teach me all the things I should know….” Or, from Michael: “I’m having fun learning multiplication because you taught me how to do it.” Or, Jana: “You were nice and gave us special treats when we were good…. And you let the class go out to play games when it was not recess time.” Or these comments: “Some of my favorite days were when we had the best hat contest, when we went to the zoo, and our poem party.” Layanie echoed many in Mom’s classes: “You are the best teacher I have had in all my life…I will miss you and will probably cry when I leave the classroom. I will always remember you.” (Millie’s School Scrapbook from Second Grade Students, Christian Unified Schools of San Diego, 1982-83)
Her son Jeff and Karen were married in 1978; Michael and Rebecca in 1985, and Steve and Renee in 1990. Mom became a grandmother in 1982, and started taking frequent trips to Yuba City, CA, and Madison, New Jersey, and around the corner in Mira Mesa to visit her 8 grandchildren. Her greatest delight (and our most memorable family pictures) was when she hosted the whole family at her home every other Christmas.
Trying to balance work and family, she also found time to organize and host many events for the College and for her local church, San Diego First Church of the Nazarene. Her noted gift of hospitality extended to Presidents Deans, and Cabinet members at the College; Pastors, staff and Sunday School classes at her Church; next door neighbors, friends and family. Working with three senior pastors at San Diego First Church, she coordinated over 40 weddings during the decade of the 80’s and into the 90’s.
After their retirement in 1996, Mom and Dad traveled extensively--by land, air and sea--often with dear friends from church or college, to dozens of countries, including: Canada, Mexico, South America, the British Isles, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Greece, Asia, and even the Artic Circle. Her social life revolved around her long-time friends and her Sunday School Class—The Fantastics—at San Diego First Church. Most enjoyable of all, she spent time with her 8 grandchildren and 6 great-grand children who enjoyed her love and attention.
After Dad got sick in 2018, Mom cared for him in the hospital and then at home. She was at his side, holding his hand, when he breathed his last on October 17, 2018. They were married for 69 years. She was hospitalized briefly after Dad died, and then came home to live with Michael and Rebecca (and our two Maltepoos) in Point Loma for 15 months. On the occasion of her 92nd birthday in December, her grandchildren presented her with a video-recorded tribute to her positive influence on their lives, after which she told us that she had a “date with Jesus sometime in late December or early January.”
Mom’s health continued to decline in 2020 from CHF and metastatic carcinoid (a cancerous tumor which had been kept at bay for five years). On January 1, 2020, we moved her into Canyon Villas—a wonderful assisted care facility in San Diego. The life-long giver of care now had to learn how to receive care. The ‘do for others’ woman of faith now had to let others do for her in service. It was a very hard lesson!
Mom adjusted quickly to the residential community, easily made new friends. She enjoyed daily activities and exercises, field trips, and remained mobile until the end. She continued her life-long shopping sprees, hosting guests, working crossword puzzles, and dressing up for the Senior Prom and dancing with her sons. But she could not have managed all this were it not for her guardian angel, Teresa Duncan. Teresa had become Mom’s care-partner and special friend while she was living with us. She continued to be her primary caregiver, constant companion, and trusted friend in the residential community—even during the COVID crisis and lockdown. We would not have been able to care for Mom and walk her gently home without our beloved Teresa.
In March, 2020, the Corona virus took its toll on many, and emotionally disturbed Mom greatly. New heath restrictions in the care facility meant that she could no longer receive outside visitors or even family members in her apartment or community dining room. Nor could she leave the facility to shop or visit others. We were only allowed to visit her in outside, in the courtyard. Bravely, she accepted the changes and found new courage to face her declining days. Hospice was called in and we prepared to care for her until the end.
On Saturday, April 18, her 3 sons broke her out and took her to see the ocean one last time. On Sunday, her family gathered outside the front entrance of her complex to wish her well and say goodbye. She got to meet her newest great grandson—Pierce Arthur Christensen (born on just a week earlier), and to see all 25 members of her family (12 in person and 13 via Zoom). How great that we all got to hear her final speech delivered from her wheelchair, which she had just begun to use. Her exhortation was a little loopy, but perfectly embodied her values: “We had a good family. I’ve had a good and long life. Remember to be kind and loving and good to each other… as our family continues to grow.”
With Hospice services in place, she told her caregiver, Teresa “I’m ready to go home.” She died three days later, on Wednesday morning, April 22.
She gave me a gift by waiting till I got back there. Teresa had not left her side in days. Steve had spent the night and texted me that he thought the end was near. Amazing timing. When I arrived and walked into her room, she started gasping for breath yet without pain. Within 2 minutes she had died. Enough time for Teresa, Steve and I to touch her body and surround her in prayer, and to send her on her way. Steve’s smart phone was playing the old hymn “My Jesus I love Thee” sung by Casting Crowns. She perfectly passed during the verse:
In mansions of glory and endless delight
I’ll ever adore Thee in Heaven so bright.
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow.
If ever I love Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I made the sign of the cross on her forehead and prayed an ancient Christian prayer:
“Depart O Christian soul out of this world and into the Paradise of God.
Fly, fly, fly into the arms of the One who made you,
redeemed you and called you by name.”
Mom breathed her last, we swallowed hard, and I believe I felt the brush of angel wings. As Henri Nouwen says: “God let’s himself be suspected.”
She passed over the threshold at 8:24am to meet her Maker and join her people (including her husband and her own Daddy and Mom) in that great gathering place of peace and rest called the Grave or Paradise dimension this side of the Resurrection. Both Mom and Dad believed that we go to heaven after we die, to that great and glorious place of sweet repose to await the resurrection of the dead, the rapture of the saints, and the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
Mom’s entire clan of 25—sons, sisters-in-law, grandkids, and great grandkids—celebrate her long, loving and faithful of life in the family lane:
Proud of my Mom, proud of our family. Proud!
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