Robert C. Christesen
February 15, 1943 - October 12, 2016
Robert Christesen, known to his students and colleagues in the Wake County Public School System as "Mr. C.," passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday morning. He was a respected husband, father, grandfather, educator, and former opera singer. Born in Washington D.C., he was a Congressional Page Boy in high school, then continued his education at East Carolina University, University of Madison, Wisconsin, and NC State. He specialized in Danish, German, Spanish, French and Italian. His love for singing started when he was a young boy, eventually landing him a full scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music. He won numerous international vocal competitions including the 1973 Prague Spring Music Festival, where he met his Czech wife Mirka, a reporter for a radio station. He was a professional baritone opera singer in Frankfurt and Dortmund, Germany for thirteen years, with lots of guest performances throughout Europe. Among his favorite roles were Rigoletto, Onegin, and Don Giovanni.
Together with their daughter Jana, Robert and Mirka moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in the mid 1980s, both accepting teaching jobs within the Wake County Public School System. Robert taught foreign languages and Social Studies at Ligon and Carnage Middle Schools before becoming Foreign Language Chair at Wake Forest Rolesville High. His first job as an administrator was in Vance County in 1994 and then at Enloe High in 1995. He worked at West Cary Middle School as Assistant Principal until his retirement in 2009. As an administrator "M. C" was a teachers' advocate and cared deeply about the students in his care. However, he never totally left his singing. Throughout the years, he performed with the North Carolina Symphony, Duke Chapel, and at memorial services for his close friends and co-workers. As a devoted Rotarian, he contributed to numerous charities to aide the needy both in the Carolinas and abroad. His commitment to the Wake Forest Rotary lasted until his final days. At 6'5" tall, his larger than life presence and booming voice made him an unforgettable figure on the stage and came in handy also in the school hallways.
Robert is predeceased by his parents, Fred and Dorothy Christesen, and by his beloved Pop Pop Currier. He is survived by his wife Mirka Christesen, their daughter Jana Xanthakos, son-in-law Lee Xanthakos, and grandchildren Niko and Mia; his twin sister Betty Mitteer, his younger sister Anne Ramsey, brother-in-law Don Ramsey, his brother John Christesen, and a number of cousins, nieces, and nephews. Flowers are welcome or memorial contributions may be made to the Wake Forest Rotary Club.
A memorial gathering to celebrate the life of this gentle giant will be held for family and friends on Saturday, October 22, from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Mitchell Funeral Home, 7209 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh. Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.MitchellatRMP.com