On Saturday, July 27, 2019, Marion (Fenson) Christianson, loving mother of three children, passed away at the age of 91 at Gold Pine Assisted Living Center, Bemidji, MN.
A Time of Sharing at Olson-Schwartz Funeral Home will take place Thursday, August 1, 2019 from 5:00-7:00 pm with a memorial service to be held Friday, August 2, 2019 with Pastor Chip Holt officiating at Beaux Arts Ballroom on the Bemidji State University Campus, Bemidji, MN, beginning at 10:30 am. Family will greet friends one hour before the service in the Ballroom. Inurnment will be in Greenwood Cemetery, Bemidji, MN.
Marion Margaret (Fenson) Christianson was born April 3, 1928, in Bemidji, MN, her father Tom Fenson was 40, her mother Ella (Goerke) was 23, her brother Walt was five and her sister Norma was two. She grew up in Bemidji and graduated from Bemidji High School in 1945. Marion attended Bemidji State Teachers College, majoring in physical education and music, graduating in 1950. She married Kenneth Lowell Christianson June 17, 1950, in her hometown of Bemidji and they had three children during their marriage.
She began her life’s passions at a very early age auditioning for the Ice Follies as a 10-year old ice-skating prodigy. As a teen Marion worked for her parents in the family business, The Kelliher Cafe, a Chinese restaurant and hotel at 212 Minnesota Ave in downtown Bemidji which housed the family as well. She grew up very close to her brother Walt and especially close to her sister Norma. Living in a hotel made for a very interesting dynamic, as it meant her family was serving meals and hosting for all the holidays, therefore Christmas became a particularly special time in her life as she started a family of her own.
As a teen she worked as a library assistant at the public library and on weekends waitressed tables at the family café enjoying the unique atmosphere and noise of the kitchen, punctuated by the loud sounds of her Dad’s half-brothers banging knives and implements as they prepped the daily fare. A new passion developed at this time as she took up Modern Dancing under the tutelage of her favorite teacher Myrtie Hunt. “She was the prettiest lady I had ever seen,” Marion recounted later in conversations with her daughter Suzy.
After graduating high school Marion began another life-long passion when she enrolled in Bemidji State Teachers College (BSTC). Marion and Bemidji State would be inseparable for the rest of her days, beginning as a student, then professor and finally as a dedicated alumnus. As a student Marion loved cheerleading, dancing and attending basketball games where she would meet the love of her life, star athlete, Ken Christianson. She liked him because “he had great legs and he played basketball” Marion wrote in a memory booklet to her granddaughter, Lindsay, years later. They were the star player and the cheerleader, an All-American match made in heaven. Marion also became an officer of the brand-new BSTC modern dance club entitled Orchesis. Her favorite high school teacher, Myrtie Hunt, was now part of the BSTC staff and with student collaboration, Myrtie and members of Orchesis began the annual Dance Show, a tradition that continues to this day.
One week after graduating college she and Ken were married, and one week after that they accepted teaching jobs in Hallock, MN., she as a physical education and music teacher and he as a physical education teacher and coach for ALL the sports. After one year in Hallock, they made their way to Blackduck, MN, with Marion again teaching physical education, music and English and Ken continuing his role in physical education, math and coaching. Ken specialized in basketball leading his Blackduck teams to multiple successes, always with Marion by his side in charge of those “snappy Blackduck cheerleaders.”
After some time off to raise her sons Mark and Kent and daughter Suzy, Marion took a position on the Bemidji State College (BSC) staff as a professor alongside Myrtie; and during the 1960’s, her early years there, she became famously known as “Mrs. C”. Her years at then BSC, and Bemidji State University (BSU) saw her take on many of the physical education classes, including dancing, tumbling and most notably the ice-skating classes. As her teaching career progressed, she gained her Master’s Degree in Physical Education, became the Director of the Dance Show after Myrtie retired, renaming it the Funtastic Dance Follies, and spent 12 years as Women’s Athletic Director, skillfully navigating the university through the early years of the Title IX era.
Among her many accomplishments Mrs. C. was President of the Northern Sun Conference; Curriculum Consultant to the State Arts Board of Minnesota; Admissions Review Panelist for the Minnesota School and Resource Center for the Arts; Community Education Instructor; Elder and Choir Director of First Presbyterian Church; Elderhostel Instructor; Conference for the Aging Presenter; charter board member of Bemidji Dance Inc; Director of summer cheerleading camps; charter board member of the BSU Snow Ball; international presenter and instructor of dance and cheerleading; member of Delta Kappa Gamma; board member of the BSU Alumni Association and was the sole honoree in 1992 of the annual Bemidji State University Outstanding Alumni award.
Husband Ken, who was an exceptional teacher in his own right, recounted years later to Suzy that “she was the best teacher he had ever seen”. Mrs. C. joined Ken in retirement in 1995, handing off all the dance classes and the Dance Follies to her daughter Suzy, and spent her retirement years traveling the world, playing thousands of hours of Bingo and doting tremendously on her grand-children. She always had a special love for her sons’ fishing tournament weigh-ins, opening day gatherings for hunting and fishing and cheering on all her kids and grandkids in their activities. Both Ken and Mrs. C. took great pride in following the paths of their students long after they had graduated.
Marion is survived by sons Mark (Barb) Christianson, Walker, MN.; Kent (Dawn) Christianson, Baudette, MN.; daughter Susan (Jon) Langhout, Jr.; grandson Brandon “BJ” Borst; granddaughters Krissy (Ben Etten) Fair, Lindsay (Jordan) Weis, Tia (Ryan Kurtz) Langhout, Tyra (Micaiah) Graham; great-granddaughter Braylee Borst; nephews Bob (Jan) Fenson, Tom (Lynn) Fenson, Jeff (Corrine) Christianson, Steven Christianson; niece Nancy O’Connell.
She was preceded in death by her parents Tom and Ella, husband Ken, sister Norma, brother Walt, sister-in-law Martha Fenson, and brother-in-law Orlend “Ols” “Sonny” Olson.
In lieu of flowers the family prefers memorials to “Bemidji State University Foundation – Marion “Mrs. C” Christianson.”