Friday, Aug 12, 2005
On the morning of Wednesday, August 10th, the family, friends and colleagues of ranger Jeff Christensen joined in a memorial service and celebration of his life at the Hyde Chapel at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. More than 650 people attended, both inside the chapel and listening from outside. Following a welcome and prayer, there were words of honor and remembrance from a number of speakers. Following are three of those tributes: ******** "Each of us feels the loss of Jeff personally, and our hearts go out to his family and friends. In his open face and his broad smile, we see the reflection of our own children, our own brothers and sisters, our own close friends. We know that their loss would diminish our world; would make our hearts ache; would test our hope and faith. "But we know, too, that all life is fleeting, and that the lives of young people like Jeff Christensen and his friend and colleague Suzi Roberts enrich our world immeasurably, making it a better place, and bringing joy to friends and strangers alike. "Jeff believed in service. He was trained to help. He lived to benefit others. He was a ranger, an emergency medical technician, served on the ski patrol, and was active in search and rescue. Many of those searching for Jeff said that they knew, if the tables were turned, it would be Jeff spending those long days search for them. Jeff followed his heart, he did what he loved, and what he loved was helping others. "He also loved the outdoors. As a ranger, he made the commitment to protect and preserve one of the most beautiful places on earth. He took great joy in being in the park and in helping people understand its rare and delicate beauty. In the backcountry, he was in his element - soaking in the natural world, helping visitors, promoting the preservation and understanding of a special place that is set aside for all of us. Only through the efforts of energetic and dedicated people life Jeff are these places passed down as our priceless legacy from one generation to the next. "I am proud to work for an organization that drew Jeff to it - proud to say that we wore the same uniform and shared the same values. And I am humbled to be here, sharing his memory and honoring someone so dedicated to living life to its fullest in service to us all and the world around us. I would like to say, on behalf of the entire National Park Service, thank you, Jeff, for all you have done for us, and thank you to his family for instilling in him such powerful values, and for sharing him with us." Mike Snyder, Acting Regional Director, Intermountain Region ******** "Jeffrey Alan Christensen, 31, of Estes Park and Winter Park, Colorado, died Friday, July 29, 2005, in Rocky Mountain National Park. He was born February 23, 1974, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Dale and Christine Christensen. "Jeff graduated from Forest Lake High School in Forest Lake, Minnesota. In May 1998, he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Minnesota at Duluth, with a major in history and a minor in geography. He completed law enforcement training at Santa Rosa in December, 2001. Jeff lived in Arvada, Colorado, for one year, then moved to Winter Park. He worked for the Winter Park Ski Resort doing ski patrol during the winter seasons from 1999 to 2004. "Jeff first came to Rocky in June 2001 as a maintenance worker on the west side. According to his co-workers in maintenance, he was very nimble as he scrambled around on the roofs of the comfort stations in the Timber Creek Campground. He returned to Rocky to work as a law enforcement park ranger on the west side during the 2002, 2003 and 2004 summer seasons. He moved to the east side this spring to expand his experience as a park ranger. "Jeff enjoyed skiing, volleyball and softball, hiking, biking and rock climbing. "Jeff is preceded in death by his grandfathers: Glenn Christensen and Leo Hingos (as). He is survived by his parents, Dale and Christine, of Forest Lake, Minnesota; his grandmothers: Adeline Christensen of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Audrey Hingos of Pine City, Minnesota; and his two brothers and sister-in-law: Jason Christensen of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Brian and Jenny Christensen of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "Rocky Mountain NP was an important part of Jeff's life, as he was an important part of our lives. As we observe the 90th anniversary of the park's establishment, I recall the words of Enos Mills, one of those who worked to establish the park those many years ago. This is a beautiful world, and all who go out under the open sky will feel the gentle, kindly influences of Nature and hear her good tidings. Beauty, like a friend, inspires everyone to do his best. "Jeff did his best during his time here at Rocky. He was part of our family. Dale and Chris, I want you to know that you have touched our hearts this past week and that we will continue to honor Jeff here at Rocky every day by protecting the mountains he loved and serving the visitors he served. "Over the years, a lot of people have paid tribute to the employees of the National Park Service. Perhaps it's fitting, then, to close my remarks with the closing words of Director Horace Albright's 1933 farewell letter to his friends and coworkers: We have been compared to the military forces because of our dedication and esprit de corps. In a sense this is true. We do act as guardians of our country's land. Our National Park Service uniform which we wear with pride does command the respect of our fellow citizens. We have the spirit of fighters, not as a destructive force, but as a power for good. With this spirit, each of us is an integral part of the preservation of the magnificent heritage we have been given, so that centuries from now people of our world, or perhaps of other worlds, may see and understand what is unique to our earth, never changing, eternal. God's speed, Ranger Jeff Christensen. Vaughn Baker, Superintendent, Rocky Mountain National Park ******** "Good morning. My name is Mark Magnuson. I'm the chief ranger here in RMNP. I've had the privilege and the honor to know and work with Jeff these past five years. Dale and Chris, as a father of two boys myself, I can't begin to comprehend the sorrow and loss that you feel. "These past few days, I've attempted to field many questions from the media, and others, about our mission as park rangers, why we often travel alone in the mountains, deserts, and forests. I feel my efforts to explain have too often been inadequate. "So with help from a dear friend and fellow park ranger, I've put together some thoughts that I hope will help to convey just who we are, what we do, and why. "We are rangers. We walk the last of the wild lands, patrolling the interface between man and nature. Ours is the world of the sun and sky, cloud and storm. Ours is the world of flower and tree, rock and mountain. We rest by the waterfall and cool our feet in the deep pools of the glen. The elk and deer, the coyote and fox, our silent companions. The hawk and eagle follow us by day, the owl leads us by night. "We are rangers. We travel alone, silent caretakers of a world fast disappearing. It is not our job, rather it is our honor, to behold that which nature has bestowed upon us. It is not our job, rather it is our privilege, to play some small part in preserving this beauty for our children and their children beyond them. We travel alone, there are few of us, and the task which lays before us is enormous. Some say we face risk, even unnecessary risk, but in our hearts we know that it is nothing compared to the loss of the wilderness. It is nothing compared to the loss of the bear, the cougar, and the wolf. We risk all to protect that which endures beyond our individual selves, that which we love beyond all else. "We are rangers. We treat our fellow man with respect. We understand those who seek solitude in the wild places. We are teachers, to those who wish to tread for the first time on ground made of dirt rather than concrete. We watch in delight at the smile of the visitor who first substitutes the canyons of skyscrapers for that of massive cliffs. "We feel the excitement of the family who first hears the bugle of the elk, the child who sees the bighorn ram, and the grandmother who reviews her life while sitting by the flowing stream. "We are rangers. We keep those who would harm the land as well as those who would harm their fellow man at bay. We care for the sick, search for the lost, assist those who cannot assist themselves. Sometimes we bring home those who would not otherwise return. "Jeff Christiansen was a ranger. He was one of us. We could not feel more honored. Jeff knew who he was. 'If I ever die while at work in the mountains, do not cry for me because you will know that I died doing what I love.' Those were Jeff's precious words, given as a gift to his parents. Those of us who walk the last of the wild lands will not cry for him. We will see him as the sun rises above the peaks. We will hear him as the wind in the trees. We will taste the cold mountain water cascading in the streams and remember him. We will know when the coyote calls that it is Jeff, reminding us all that we are rangers. "John Muir said 'Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.' We will listen to these words and we will do their bidding. Jeff, we do not say good-bye, for the ranger in you will live forever." Mark Magnuson, Chief Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park ******** Following the service, the colors were carried from the chapel in advance of the casket and NPS bagpiper Mark Daniel played a postlude. A line of honor was formed by rangers, Winter Park ski patrollers, SAR team members, and representatives from more than a dozen agencies. As Jeff was carried out from the chapel, a dispatcher called his number - 233 - over the park's radio system several times, then made a final transmission: "No contact, Ranger 233. Ranger 233 out of service." ******** The funeral service will be in Minnesota today and will be attended by eight rangers from the park, six of whom will be pallbearers. Parks are to return flags to full staff tomorrow (Saturday).