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Karen Dee Christenson

December 3, 1935 ~ September 22, 2018 (age 82)
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Karen Dee (Metcalf) Christenson passed away Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 at the age of 82 in Baker City. Karen was born December 3, 1935, while the family was residing in Telocaset Oregon and her father Easton, was stationed as a signalman with the O.W.R.N. railroad. Her mother Maurine Thompson Metcalf was 32 years old when Karen was born and she joined the family as the last of three girls which were 10 and 12 years her senior in 1935. Her sisters were Phyllis and Mary Jean Metcalf.

Later, Easton’s work with the railroad took the family to Durkee where Karen attended elementary school then rode the bus to Baker for high school and graduated in 1953.

Karen was working with the Bell phone company after graduation as a telephone operator on the old cord boards that were housed in the Telephone Exchange Building at 1926 First Street in Baker City between Washington and Court Streets when she met Gayle Christenson also working with the Bell phone company. Gayle had recently moved to Baker from McMinnville with the phone company when they met and were married in March of 1954.

Karen continued working with the phone company until the couple started to grow the family in 1956. Along with work and family, Karen and Gayle were active in the community groups Jaycees, Elks, and square dancing. Boating was a favorite pastime for the family after she and Gayle bought a kit to build their own wooden boat. Karen’s skills as a seamstress were very impressive. She sewed most of the family’s apparel and taught their two girls, Carol and Joni, and many other girls in the community, as a leader in the 4-H programs of Baker County. She took on difficult commissions to tailor wedding dresses, English horseback riding apparel and such.

In the 1960’s, Karen and Gayle sold the wooden kit boat to her sister and husband - who recently built a cabin on Wallow Lake – and used the money to purchase the established Marty’s Fabric Store that occupied commercial space on 1st and Court Streets in Baker. After a few years, she moved the business to 1925 Main Street under the same name and later sold it to Colleen Brooks in 1975. Karen served on the county’s Planning Commission for a short period during her time as a business owner.

Many summer days were spent boating at Wallowa Lake and Snake River where Karen taught the girls and their friends to water ski, play poker, and scrabble and horseshoes. From their hugely successful garden, Karen and Gayle spent many days each harvest preserving their crops for good meals through the winter. She began working for the 5J School District as the Churchill School secretary with principles Glenn Timm and Mark Bogart then eventually retired with the school district.

Karen and Gayle enjoyed a great circle of friends that made the most of life in each other’s company. When they all got together there was quite a production with laughter and fun, they were all truly best friends. Together, with some also in retirement, they enjoyed RVing across the West exploring and visiting from the coast to the Dakota’s.

Karen was preceded in death by her parents Easton and Maureen Metcalf, two sisters – Phyllis and Mary Jean Metcalf and husband Gayle Christenson. Survivors are daughters, Carol and Dave Phillips and Joni Sager; Grandchildren Toni Zikmund, Luke Kolb, Kate Reid, Bill Phillips, James Sager and Clint Sager; and five great grandchildren.

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