Elayne L. Christiansen passed away peacefully at home on February 11, 2018 surrounded by her loving family. For 93 years, she led a very full life, and was best known for her outgoing personality. Her family, friends, and acquaintances all loved her enthusiasm and spirit.
She was born in Fargo, North Dakota on July 30, 1924, on a farm originally homesteaded by her Danish great-grandparents. She then grew up in Chicago, and like so many young women in the 40s, she faced WWII bravely, writing many upbeat letters to her classmates serving in the war effort. After attending Stephens College for two years she wanted to become a WASP pilot. However, the program had been disbanded, so instead, she became an airline stewardess for Trans World Airlines. After retirement, Elayne became very active in the Clipped Wings organization, and remained an enthusiastic TWA alumni. Back then, flying was considered glamorous, so she made sure to save all her outfits, even wearing one while working as a volunteer for a TWA museum exhibit for the Clipped Wings orginization.
After the war, she met her husband, Thomas A. Christiansen. They were both working for Bell Telephone at the time: she as a customer service rep and he as the consulting engineer. They married in 1951 and honeymooned in Europe, taking an ocean liner and then staying for several months. She supported Tom through Harvard Business School, then moved to California in 1956, just as the electronics industry was taking off. There they bought a house in Los Altos that had 16 apricot trees and orchards nearby.
Elayne was an incredible athlete, especially during a time when women weren’t encouraged to be athletic. She became captain of the majority of her high school sports teams and later, an accomplished Masters swimmer. In addition, she taught life saving and helped coach the Los Altos High School girl’s swim team, leading them to a CCS win in 1975. In her fifties, she took up tap dancing and was featured in Bubba Gong’s shows at Foothill College. She continued to participate in dance classes well into her eighties.
In addition to coaching the swim team, Elayne also took photographs of the high school athletic events and wrote many articles for the Town Crier highlighting the young athletes. She photographed friend’s weddings and her many club activities. She was responsible for press releases for the TWA clipped wings and the Stanford mother’s club. She would have been an excellent reporter.
Elayne was a fun and energetic mother to her two daughters, Elaine and Peggy. She took them on many adventurous trips, including the Waikiki rough-water ocean swim of 2 ½ miles, where she competed as the only swimmer in the 50 year old women’s age group! She was very independent, and fostered that in her daughters by always encouraging them to exercise their own judgement, like when she let them lead the way to Marshall Fields in Chicago without her help. Elayne was also widely read and politically active, often taking her young daughters to candidate rallies throughout their formative years.
Open, honest, and friendly, we found we could always talk with her about anything, and her care and advice will be greatly missed. Her relationship with her husband was one of equals, which gave her daughters the confidence to become engineers at a time when that was uncommon.
Our family has been so blessed to all live within several blocks of each other. After her husband’s passing in 1989, Elayne became very active in helping raise her five grandchildren while her daughters worked part-time. She created a wonderful, playful, and creative environment in her home, and all of the grandchildren regard their time at Grandma’s as some of the fondest memories of their childhood. She also possessed a gift of caring for dogs. She owned a total of six throughout her life, and loved each as if they were her own children. They loved her in return, and their spirits would often reflect hers: energetic and loving.
Elayne is preceded in death by her husband, Thomas A. Christiansen, manager of international trade relations at Hewlett-Packard. She is survived by her two daughters, Elaine S. Christiansen-Thomas and Margaret (Peggy) J. Christiansen, son-in-law Michael J. Salameh and her five grandchildren Tom, Jennifer, James, Michael and Joyce, and her poodle, Rascal.