It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Ross Christensen on the morning of May 12, 2020 at the age of 80, with Carol by his side.
Ross was born in Lethbridge, Alberta March 31, 1940, one of four sons of the late Parley and Mary Christensen. As he was 6 years younger than his nearest sibling, his brothers were his protectors …sometimes, and his heroes…always. (Keith with Barbara; Bruce with Carol, then Jelaine; DeLon with Hilkka and then Jocy). Ross’ father Parley was a genial, gentle man who was easy to have as a parent and fun to be with. He complemented the more focused parenting of his mother, Mary, a teacher by profession, and a quiet individual of enormous talent and ability who had an indelible influence on the life of Ross. Parley died in 1976 and Mary in 1999.
Ross spent most of his childhood in Calgary, where he attended Central Collegiate and was the recipient of the Harry Hood award for the top student football athlete in the city. He then attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he continued his success in football, becoming the top scoring running back in the nation while playing for the Alberta Golden Bears. He graduated in 1961 with a BA, under the auspices of the Canadian Forces Regular Officer Training Plan.
Ross had an amazing set of careers. In phase one he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment. Aviation was added as a new dimension to armoured operations and he became a pilot qualified on both the L-19 “Birddog” aircraft and the Hiller CH-112 “Nomad” helicopter. However, he soon found out that his military career would keep him on the move. He was deployed to NATO operations in Germany with his Regiment where he left the tanks to fly helicopters scouting for the armour for the rest of his tour.
His career continued with his completion of Army Staff College in Kingston, and a posting to the Strathcona’s in Calgary. His subsequent service included a tour with the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization based in Israel and Syria followed by a staff assignment in the National Defence Operation Centre in Ottawa. At the time of his departure from the military, Ross had achieved the rank of Major.
For Phase 2, Ross joined the Federal Government’s Treasury Board Secretariat as the program analyst responsible for reviewing proposals concerning the Army and Air Force. His 22 years in the Federal Public Service included senior appointments in Defence, the Privy Council Office, Health and Welfare, Solicitor General, and Public Works. He enjoyed the challenging and interesting positions he held and was continually impressed by the dedication of elected and public officials with whom he served.
For Phase 3, Ross became a government relations consultant. His clients were drawn from both the private and public sectors and they provided him with a very different set of challenges which he enjoyed enormously. He pursued his consultancy for 10 years.
Ross was a dedicated member of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa for many years. He had decided this would be the primary mechanism to pay his good fortunes forward. He was particularly proud of his role in the production of the Shaken Baby Syndrome video and of his participation on the National Passing the Torch Campaign which succeeded in raising $16 million in private funds for the completion of the Canadian War Museum in 2003. His time as an advisor with the high school members of the Key Clubs was fun and energizing. Of late he was also a participant in the Friends of the Family Program under the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization.
Ross’ interests were eclectic. He was an avid fan of the Ottawa football team and particularly enjoyed his outings with friends as an Ottawa Redblacks season ticket holder.
In his younger days, he was an active sports participant - skiing, squash, sailing, and running, including the successful completion of 2 Ottawa marathons and one London England marathon.
He travelled and explored, visiting Australia, New Zealand, various places in Europe, the Middle East and throughout the United States, as well as all the provinces of Canada, the latter enhancing his love and gratitude for this wonderful country.
He fully threw himself into cottage time every couple of years at Christensen or Cheffins family re-unions, enjoying BBQs, late night games and contests, sailboarding with frequent capsizing, and canoeing and kayaking also with frequent capsizing.
He was an avid theatre goer and he maintained memberships to the National Gallery, and some of the Ottawa Museums which he frequented regularly.
Ross loved to host brunches and dinners, to go out for greasy diner breakfasts with the guys and to try new restaurants for lunch with friends. He always looked forward to lively discussions around investments, books, politics and any current news. Friendships were so very important.
All of the above activities and interests were a part of his life, even though, starting in 2006, he suffered from various serious ailments requiring surgeries and medical procedures. These did not slow him down, nor dampen his spirits.
And now for the really important part - FAMILY.
While at University Ross married Sheran Jene Heppler and together they had four children: Lisa Carene (Don/Sheldon), Curtis Alan (Sheri), Todd Regan (Paula) and Cia Lianne (Kyle).
The busy household when the children were young did not stop Ross and Sheran from embarking on many adventures. They spent time living in a farmhouse in Germany, where Ross delighted everyone by landing his helicopter in the backyard. They also lived in the Middle East enjoying swims in the Sea of Galilee and trips to the bazaar in Damascus. Their road trip in a Volkswagen mini-bus from Israel to Germany was full of wonderful stops including Christmas in Athens, New Year’s Eve on a Croatian island, and skiing in Austria.
The marriage came to an end in 1975 for all of the usual regrettable reasons and with all of the predictable negative impacts on the children. Ross had custody of the 3 older children and then all four, and did his best to parent them. They grew to become amazing adults and parents.
Ross entered into single parenting with great enthusiasm. He thoroughly enjoyed ballet performances, school events, hockey and volleyball games, letting the children miss school on weather perfect days for family ski trips to Mont Tremblant, camping and canoe trips when time would allow. He was very proud of the University degrees his children attained and the successful careers they are pursuing. Their trips “home” became very important to him, and he so enjoyed having both the one-on-one visits as well as the chaotic house-full-of- people visits. These latter ones came to be as each of the children married or found partners, and had children, who in turn have had children, making the count now at 16 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren, all of them a delight. He was always so proud and so ready to talk about all the successes of the older ones, and the happy arrivals of the new babies. In 2001, Ross’ oldest child, Lisa, died; this was the saddest and most difficult time of his fatherhood.
In 1980 the arc of Ross’s life changed when dear friends introduced him to Carol Cheffins. Their relationship was formally enshrined in an Agreement of Commitment that was celebrated with family and friends in 1988. This Agreement, together with the annual re-commitment to it, provided a guide to the way in which they lived their lives over their many years together. Their “love lock” remains on the railing of the Somerset bridge over the Rideau Canal.
Ross was welcomed into the Cheffins Clan where he had to pass the test of reciting the “C” names of all of the children without faltering: “Carol, Clint, Craig, Curt, Clyde, and Cliff.” He enjoyed the company of their current and former wives, Debbie, Jocelyn, Lynn, Andrea, Joyce and Laurie and had been looking forward to meeting the soon-to-be family member, Rea. Carol’s Mother, Thelma, was always protective of Ross when the family board game playing became too raucous. Ross got along especially well with Carol’s Father Bert particularly when it came to their common interests in military affairs and aviation.
Ross and Carol believed they were ready to add young children to an already large family. Thus, in 1990, after a very long international adoption process, Kenson and Laura came into their lives from far-off Haiti at the tender ages of 24 months and 10 months. Ross and Carol watched Laura grow into a beautiful young woman, with an engaging personality, and a lovely singing voice. They watched Kenson grow into a beautiful young man, and a sensitive poet. Kenson returned to Haiti in 2008 for a short volunteer assignment, where he met Laddia. They married, and have four wonderful children. In spite of many challenges, they all added a richness to Ross’ life and his memory bank.
Ross will be remembered as a kind, sensitive, loyal and inquisitive individual, always with a smile and a welcoming hug and most of all as a person devoted to his family.
He lived his favourite quote: “Be kind whenever possible . . . It is always possible.” (Dalai Lama).
A private family memorial service will be held when gatherings are permitted.
If they wish, friends and family are invited to make a memorial donation to the Canadian Foundation for the Children of Haiti (cfchcanada.ca) or the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa (ottawakiwanis.org).