June 2, 2014
Santa Cruz Sentinel
by Karen Kefauver
SCOTTS VALLEY >> Ask Claire Christensen the secret to living a long, healthy life and his answer is surprisingly simple.
"Luck," says the 90-year-old, who lives on his own in the home he and his wife bought 44 years ago.
"Diet? I eat anything I want," he laughed, when pressed for tips on longevity. Despite the loss of his wife Katherine after more than 66 years of marriage, and the passing of his daughter at age 46 of cancer, Christensen is remarkably upbeat, has a good sense of humor and demonstrates amazing recall for precise dates.
"I met my wife at a Halloween dance at San Jose State College on Oct. 30, 1943. I was 20 and she was 19. They were throwing a dance for the soldiers and I was invited. I saw her across the room and asked her to dance."
They married in November 1944. "I miss her every day."
Yet Christensen is not lonely. He loves the companionship of his dog, Rowly, a rescue dog from the SPCA, and his best friend is his nephew, a frequent visitor and house guest. His neighbors are great friends and he sees them often.
"He is a charmer," says neighbor Karen Lippe. "He has great stories to share like you would see on the TV show 'MASH.'"
World War II changed the course of Christensen's life. After high school he was drafted at 18 and served on active duty in the Army for three years, from January 1943 to '46.
Stationed in Texas in 1943, Christensen served as a dental technician. He shipped out to the Philippines on Jan. 1, 1944.
"I was lucky I didn't get into combat. In the Philippines, we were there getting ready to invade Japan. Then they dropped the bomb. We just lucked out. If we had invaded Japan, we would have lost a lot of men. We were lucky the war ended. I realize a lot of people were killed and it was a heck of a weapon to use, but it ended it."
Thanks to the GI bill, he returned home and "got all that education paid for. I got a master's degree in mathematics. I was able to teach math for 28 years, mostly at Los Altos High School. I liked teaching. It was rewarding."
"I am an optimist mostly. It's been a great life, I will tell you that."
Getting to Know Claire Christensen
Birthday: April 21, 1924
Hometown: Sheridan, Wyoming
Family: Surviving sibling of two brothers, two sisters, homemaker mother and Danish grandparents. His father was a railroad-mail delivery man in the 1920s and '30s, picking up, storing and delivering mail from the train on his route from Wyoming to Nebraska.
Army: Assigned to 418th Field Artillery Group
Hobbies: Enjoys trimming his 44 rose bushes, reading World War II novels, and watching movies. "Roman Holiday" is a favorite.
Health: After a quadruple heart bypass, his health "has been great ever since."
Exercise: "I take a rather long walk every day. Now I use a walker and am out for about 45 minutes."
Sports: "Pro football, that's my sport. The 49ers are my team."
Army Food: "The Army food was delicious. When my wife came down one Thanksgiving, she couldn't get over the excellent food that we ate. That was one of the greatest things I got out of the Army — we had the best food."
Memoir: He's writing his life story, printing it by hand, to share with his family and friends.