Cedar City, UT - Keith Leland Christensen, 83, was reunited with his two sweet daughters in Heaven on February 24, 2013. He was born on February 5, 1930 in Bingham Canyon, Utah, to Leland and Violet (Nylund) Christensen. As a child born during the Depression, life was not simple, especially difficult for his family and nothing came easy. But, through hard work, perceptive effort and incredible determination, Keith achieved success in all his endeavors throughout life. He truly was one of the very greatest of the Greatest Generation. He never forgot where he came from and appreciated everything so much more because of it.
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He attended Springville Jr. High School and graduated from Springville High School in 1948. He loved sports and was an outstanding baseball pitcher, and excelled at basketball. He played basketball for the Springville Red Devils and was referred to as the "spark plug of the team" and even played Varsity as a sophomore. "Kitty" was an exceptional high school player and played in the state tourneys for three different years with many wins and featured stories to his credit. He earned a sports scholarship to Utah State College in Logan and was proud to play basketball for the Aggies. He had a lifelong love of sports, was a fierce handball competitor, and when they were young, he took his girls to baseball games and track meets.
He married Sally Seal in 1952, and she and "Chris" had three beautiful daughters. He worked briefly at Geneva Steel while in college and completed his degree, graduating from BYU in 1954. He enjoyed the music of The Sons of the Pioneers, reading newspapers and eating strawberries, and banana cream pie.
On June 16, 1952, Keith joined the Marine Corps in Denver, Co. and proudly served for more than 26 years, an honorable, and brilliantly decorated and commended officer. Keith loved his country and twice earned the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V for his heroism and gallantry above and beyond the call of duty during the Vietnam conflict. While in combat, he was also awarded the Bronze Star Medal for unhesitatingly taking charge of his battalion after his commanding officer had been mortally wounded, resulting in the successful accomplishment of the battalion mission. While serving as commanding officer, Keith displayed exceptional knowledge and foresight in military projects with complete dedication and loyalty allowing him to wear the Navy Commendation Medal Gold Star in lieu of the second award Combat V. Among other awards, he also received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism. Freedom isn't free, and Keith was a genuine hero. He had a vast knowledge and keen understanding of military counterinsurgency tactics and techniques. His resolute efforts throughout contributed in large measure to the accomplishments of the Third Marine Division. Keith was stationed in several states during his military career and also had some overseas assignments such as Okinawa, Japan and an elite tour assignment with Naval Intelligence in London, England for four years during the late 1960's. Keith was commended by the Commander in Chief, US Naval Forces Europe, for initiative, imagination and perseverance in coordinating several complex intelligence plans. He voluntarily assumed additional duties as Head of the Plans, which he performed vigorously and with considerable competence with a cooperative spirit and professional pride, reflecting great credit upon him as a leader. The British culture and country were embraced by the entire family, especially little Lisa, who just naturally picked up the accent. He took his family on vacations to Europe and Scotland visiting castles and historic locations which were so enriching and had lifelong impacts. Keith was a true patriot who was always proud to fly the American flag in front of his home.
Having served faithfully and with honor for more than 26 years, Keith retired as a USMC Lt. Colonel in 1977 and moved from California to Southern Utah and began a second career in real estate as a broker and land developer. He loved the beautiful state of Utah. He enjoyed drives and looking at the stunning colorful scenery, powerful mountains and landscapes of southern Utah, knowing every site. His love of sports continued during this time where he also enjoyed skiing and golfing. He settled in Cedar City and started successful business ventures.
Keith was a race horse owner, racing both Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds throughout the 1980's and early 90's. He loved his stunning horses and entered them in races all over Utah and the western and pacific United States. Keith always had champions and it was so much fun to place bets because he was oh so confident they were winners, and they were. His horses won an abundance of awards and trophies every year. His eyes would really light up whenever he talked about his horses and the fun he had in the racing days.
In the recent 20 years, Keith loved working as an agent with his "family" at Coldwell Banker Advantage in Cedar City. They uplifted his life daily and their company made his days enjoyable. In 1994, he was presented with an award from Coldwell Banker for his unselfish contributions. In the more recent years, he concentrated on office morale and teamwork. In 2005, he received the Spectrum Award from his friends at Coldwell in Appreciation for a Variety of Activities that Contributed to Higher Office Morale. Some of these activities included Dilly Bar runs, consistent sharing of seasonal fruit, Best Coldwell Banker Chili, lunch runs complete with menu suggestions, team support of realtors' children, Annual Apple Run and always unsolicited real estate advice. As "President" and organizer of the Annual Apple Run, he made sure everyone who wanted delicious Utah apples would not be disappointed. He always enjoyed the sharing of advice, comfortable surroundings, lively conversations, singing his little songs, tasty treats, and telling jokes and stories with everyone in the office. He had so much fun with everyone there. A heartfelt and sincere thank you to all at Coldwell who opened their hearts with kindness toward Dad over the years and especially during these last months.
Keith's daughters were the love of his life, and he always looked forward to the times he spent with them. They were his special "Pardners", his Best Buddies. For the last 22 years, Debra and Gino would not miss a 4th of July trip to Cedar City to visit with our beloved Dad. Keith loved watching the parade with them, park festivities afterward, and picnicking at Cedar camp grounds, a much anticipated highlight of every year. Keith loved cooking on the campfire at our own special place right next to the creek, under the tall pines and quaking aspens, then enjoying a meal prepared by all. Easters and Thanksgivings in Tucson at the home of Lisa and Robert, were the best part of every year with cherished traditions and opportunities to spend time with the entire family. He loved watching his little grandchildren grow into amazing young adults, and he was so proud of the talented individuals they became. Easter was a lovely Spring time occasion with lots of flowers being planted, egg hunts, and Keith always made sure everyone had new Easter outfits for Resurrection Celebration. Thanksgivings in Tucson were also warm family gatherings with feasts and, of course, the planting of more bushes and flowers. Dad and the whole family loved these times and we all looked forward with great excitement to those days and spending time with each other. As soon as one visit would end, we would start planning the next. There were also the occasional in between trips to Albuquerque where he and Gino would plant even more flowers, bushes and trees. Keith really loved growing trees, bushes and flowers, especially flowers and during phone calls would always ask…"how are the flowers doing?" Planting projects were his favorite.
Keith was strong, courageous and totally fearless just like his two beautiful daughters before him. Preceded in death by daughters Valerie Christensen in 1961 and Lisa Ann Furrow, just recently in December 2012, his parents, Leland and Violet Christensen and sister Bonnie Christensen. He is survived by daughter Debra Griego and husband Gino, son-in-law Robert L. Furrow, former wife Sally Seal Davenport, grandchildren Jessica (Adam) Parsons, David Furrow, Christopher Furrow and great grandchildren Emma Grace Parsons and Evan Jaxon Parsons, sister Karen (William) Chinn and family and brother Gary (Diane) Christensen and family.
We appreciate everyone in Cedar City who has shown kindness to Dad over the years. A smile, friendly hello, a fun chat, a meal, or a visit were all so very appreciated. He lived his life as a man of complete integrity with tremendous dignity. A heartfelt thanks to Diane Janes for her selfless compassion and care for Dad over the years and especially during these recent months. She did so much, we would have been lost without her. Her support will always be remembered with fondness and great appreciation. She was more than an exceptional friend to Keith, he truly cared for her.
Our Dad, the man with the booming voice, brilliant mind, sharp sense of humor, unique individual, soft heart, strength and toughness of a warrior, our Marine Colonel, and his unmistakable laughter, will be missed by all who knew and loved him. Keith was so handsome and gifted that he succeeded in everything he ever attempted, a man about whom volumes could be written. He inspired all of us to work smarter, work harder, never give up, spend wisely, not settle for mediocrity, never whine, and to always, always be brave.
Keith's request was to have no services. In keeping with his wishes, a private interment will take place at Evergreen Cemetery in Springville, Utah, where he will rest next to his sister Bonnie and his parents. In lieu of donations or flowers, please consider purchasing a bush, a tree, or perhaps some beautiful flowers and plant them where the sun shines brightly. Friends and family are invited to share thoughts and memories online at www.serenicare.com. Arrangements are under the direction of SereniCare Funeral Home, 986-2085.
Published in The Spectrum & Daily News on Feb. 27, 2013