Stephen Allen Christensen, MD, of Sandpoint, Idaho, passed away on May 30, 2022, after 68 years of immersed in the sensual rush of this wonderful orb we all call “home.”
Steve was born on September 26, 1953, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, to Robert Eugene Christensen and Florentine Julia Cockelberg. His childhood in eastern Wyoming was full of adventures with siblings, friends, and canine companions. Including Speck, a stray dog he lured into the house with a hot dog.
He moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon as a teenager and graduated from Klamath Union High School in 1972. While in high school he participated in gymnastics, excelling in the rings. He was a diligent athlete and worked hard to maintain his physical health throughout the rest of his life. He was an excellent scientist. Steve attended Utah State University on a scholarship, graduating in three years with a double major in entomology and mathematics. In the summer, he worked as a firefighter with the US Forest Service in Oregon.
Steve loves all living things. After graduating from Utah, he worked in an animal lab that looked after a large variety of animals involved in research programs. He was troubled by the requirement to euthanize the animals after their research program ended. Contrary to institutional protocol, he quietly found homes in the local area for all dogs scheduled for euthanasia.
In 1982, he entered medical school at the University of Utah and found a career in medicine. Far from the so-called “higher disciplines” of medicine, he chose instead to pursue the breadth, depth and intimacy of family practice. In medicine, Dr. Christensen has immersed himself in the most intimate, compelling, and frightening aspects of others’ lives…including individual deaths. He was a gifted teacher with a unique ability among physicians to orchestrate terrifying chaos in his patients’ lives, giving them understanding and regaining control. He was a communicator and storyteller who could reduce medical terms to simple language. His patients responded to his curative effect wherever he was — Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, Montana, and finally Idaho. He understood the remarkable resilience, strength, and depth of the human spirit and treated his patients with empathy, compassion, and respect.
Steve was an outdoorsy enthusiast, and throughout his life he found peace and connection in gazing through the kaleidoscope that represents our majestic world. He had a profound stock of knowledge of the myriad plants, insects, and animals that were meandering, moving, and filtering around him. He could spend hours with his camera, on his stomach among the weeds, watching the trail of a beetle or crouching silently watching wolves and butterflies interact in a nearby meadow during a hunting expedition. Steve brings his love of nature to his family and friends and opens the windows to his wild clan’s neighborhood universe to those around him.
Steve had a wide range of hobbies, including fly fishing, beekeeping, gardening, hiking, photography, writing, playing guitar and woodcarving. An excellent artist, he loved to collect driftwood, agate and moss. He loved watching inclement weather. He has started (and finished) a number of business ventures in a variety of locations. He was forever curious and innately capable of just about anything. His soul was tender and sympathetic with a streak of stubborn confidence.
Steve once wrote, “Death is a fickle deceiver. Consider the many ways death interrupts the lives of happy individuals whose personal death is not remote most days: some people die suddenly, unexpectedly, even violently. For others, death is a phrase About a temporary snooper who hacks their windows for days, months, or even years before finally stepping in.” Death stole Steve safely into the night after a shorter-than-expected period with illness. He leaves behind an insatiable void in the lives of those who left him. He is survived by his devoted wife, Tonya J. Christensen (Annika) and Eric B. 20 grandsons of brothers Robert W. Christensen and Edward L. Christensen; Sisters Idina C. Copper and Patricia de Youngblood. Steve’s death was preceded by his parents.
Like everyone who ignores the death cloak, Steve was terrified of oblivion. He was even more terrified by the thought of being forgotten. He avoided baseball caps, shorts, and anything related to funerals. Instead of a memorial service or flowers, “Get off the phone and look around!” May his memory remain, and his influence continue in the lives and deeds of those he touched.