ForeverMissed

This memorial website was created in memory of the one and only, Donald Christians, as a place to share stories and photos of this beloved jokester. Please post your best photos and Don stories!

***

Friends and Family invite you to a luncheon celebrating the life of Don Christians

Saturday, June 8, 2019 at 12:30 PM

Basque Cultural Center
599 Railroad Ave.
South San Francisco
Tel: 650-583-8091

Kindly RSVP by June 1 to  donlchris@aol.com

Posted by Elaine Johnson on May 4, 2019
Don had a huge impact on Bob's and my lives. He and Bob met playing racquetball. From there, Don introduced us to bocce ball, which has been so important to us. Don and Joan played on our original team, formed in 1997. Don invited Bob to co-host on his radio program out at KWMR. Don and Joan, and then Neva, joined our book groups in their various incarnations. Quietly, unobtrusively, with no fanfare, he changed our lives for the better.

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Elaine Johnson on May 4, 2019
Don had a huge impact on Bob's and my lives. He and Bob met playing racquetball. From there, Don introduced us to bocce ball, which has been so important to us. Don and Joan played on our original team, formed in 1997. Don invited Bob to co-host on his radio program out at KWMR. Don and Joan, and then Neva, joined our book groups in their various incarnations. Quietly, unobtrusively, with no fanfare, he changed our lives for the better.
his Life

A life well lived

Donald L. Christians is an American story of the last century in which an adventuresome, generous soul migrates from a small farming community to cities and broader global experience.  Don looked back on Grafton, Iowa where he grew up (recent census of 252) and wrote Homer's Whip, that depicted a tiny prairie town with timeless small town values.  At the same time, he embraced the diverse world.

During his second year at Luther College he enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight World War II, and served 1 ½ years in the occupational forces in Japan in 1946 when he was just 18.  Like so many farm boys, his world was transformed.  Upon discharge, Don finished college with a degree in political science from the  University of Northern Iowa n 1950 and later earned a Master's Degree from Northern Colorado University.

Don headed to California in 1955, settling in North Beach, living the life of jazz, card playing, bocce ball, horse racing, and writing, while beginning his 29 year career teaching in the San Francisco Unified School District.  There he met and married the artist/fellow teacher, Joan Clay, in 1960 and they spent their honeymoon driving a VW Camper Van to Tierra Del Fuego in Chile.  Both often taught the most challenging students to whom they devoted their creativity, respect, and good humor.

In 1967, Don was appointed Associate Director of the Peace Corps Program in Ethiopia where Don and Joan lived until 1969 where Don was assigned to support the work of volunteers in a remote region of the country.  He was extremely effective in all aspects of this assignment.  He mentored volunteers in the classroom and in school protocol and interaction, e.g., with headmasters who required extensive memorization even though the students did not have pencils or paper.  He also modeled the expected interaction with the broader community.  His expertise, life experience, and winning manner made him the ideal person to relate to volunteers, faculty, administrators, townspeople as well as the Peace Corps bureaucracy.  He supported volunteers who undertook ambitious, often impactful projects that departed from the mainstream and served as the trusted confidant of Peace Corps Ethiopia leadership, shaping policy for the Program as a whole.

In 1969, Don was appointed Country Director Peace Corps Dominican Republic.  Visitors recall Don selling co-op crafts to tourists on cruises on Christmas Day.   Don and Joan remained in the Dominican Republic until they were recalled by President Nixon and Don worked on the Muskie campaign until Don and Joan returned to San Francisco in 1973.  Don taught high school Civics for 29 years, retiring from Galileo High School in San Francisco in 1986 where he was beloved as an inspiring teacher by a wide range of students.

Over the years Don made an enormous number of friends from his many interests and vocations, reflecting his enthusiasm and variety of interests.  He and Joan owned shares in 22 race horses and had particular success with "Mac Rhapsody" and "Pleasure Grounds".  Don worked at Golden Gate Fields as a mutual clerk.  He wrote numerous articles for horse magazines and hosted a radio program for 5 years on KWMR in West Marin interviewing authors.  After Joan's passing, he met Neva Beach, a book editor and they were together until her passing in 2010.  Don has been living with their dog Cody in San Francisco's colorful Mission District since he met Neva and they were often seen feeding homeless men and women in a local park as well as taking neighborhood children to zoos and museums.

Don loved bridge and bocce ball and excelled at both. He was a member of the Marin Bocce Ball team that won the Northern California Seniors championship, and he played in  bridge tournaments around the U.S. as a Silver Life Master.

Recent stories

Candy Card

Shared by Kj C on April 22, 2019

For my 40th birthday, Don made me the most amazing birthday card.  Knowing of my love of sweets- a joy we shared- Don constructed a story card, with much of the text out of candy bars.  It was a joy to read, and to eat!  There was no one like him, he is dearly missed.