Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
Mary Christianson was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 22, 1926 to Loisi Hendler Judt and Joseph Judt. Although she doubtless heard a lot of English, Mary said that she never spoke English until starting school at age 6.
Mary remembered a difficult childhood. Her father left the family when she was 9, leaving her mother, Loisi, to raise her daughters on her own. Loisi worked as a cleaning lady. She was a closed, suspicious person. This affected the girls. When Mary expressed interest in a ball game at Wrigley Field, Loisi told her that "only crazy people" went to ball games. Loisi sent her daughters out to beg for a tree one Christmas Eve. The man on the tree lot said he would rather burn his leftover trees, rather than give one to the girls. Loisi discouraged Mary from singing. However, Mary had some pleasures while growing up. She remembers the joy she found in rolling skating with her own skates, which her sister bought for her. She also has vivid memories of swimming in Lake Michigan and, and when she became a young woman, going dancing at ballrooms in Chicago. Mary met her husband, Claus Christianson at Chicago's famous Aragon Ballroom in the Uptown neighborhood. They enjoyed dancing throughout their marriage.
Mary attended a mix of Catholic schools and public schools: St. Vincent’s, Knikerbocker, and St. Clement’s. Mary graduated from St. Clement’s High School in 1944, where she learned shorthand and typing, skills she found useful throughout her life. She was offered a scholarship to college, but her mother insisted she get a job. She did take a semester of office administration at Northwestern's extension program on Navy Pier. This included a class in advanced bookkeeping, which helped her land a good job as an administrator with the patent attorney firm Mann and Brown. The firm’s offices were in Chicago's well-known Monadnock Building where she worked until the birth of her first child, Hank Christianson in 1951.
In 1953, when Mary was pregnant with her second child Tom, the family moved from Claus's parents' house in Chicago to a brand new home in the newly developed suburb of Berkeley, Illinois, near Elmhurst. There Mary worked as parent and homemaker, made life-long friends, and was active in St. Domitilla's Parish. When her children got older, she worked as a secretary and receptionist at Rosary College (now Dominican University) in River Forest, Illinois. By all accounts Mary was an excellent administrator and a very fast and accurate typist. Mary and Claus's closest circle of friends included neighbors and Claus's two sisters and their families.
In 1976 Mary and Claus moved to a larger house an unincorporated section of Deerfield, Illinois, near Claus's sisters. In Deerfield, Mary was very active in Holy Cross Parish. Among other roles, she worked as parish secretary, and after completing a certificate program with the Archdiocese of Chicago, was the head of the Art and Environment Committee for several years. Mary often attended daily mass and served as a Eucharistic minister. She was involved in the Christ Renews His Parish Program and the small support group she joined inthat program continued to meet for prayer and fellowship for many years. Mary enjoyed cooking and she and Claus were active in the parish gourmet club, in which a group of households took turns planning and hosting a fine shared meal about 7 times a year. Mary contributed countless hours to the annual parish rummage sale.
Claus and Mary travelled widely, twice visiting Scandinavia and Sweden, where Claus was born. They also traveled to Hawaii,Alaska, the Caribbean, El Salvador, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Austria, Italy, and Greece. They particularly enjoyed a photographic safari tour in Kenya in 1973. When their children were young they often spent part of the summer at the Christianson family cabin on the Spread Eagle lakes in northern Wisconsin and they drove across the United States with their boys several times. While Mary really enjoyed travelling, she did not like to camp. In later years, she was particularly fond of the American Southwest where she traveled with Claus as well as with church friends.
Before Mary and Claus visited Japan in 1987 they both studied survival Japanese and Mary took up Japanese-style ink painting. She was fond of other crafts and made banners for her church and for her son Tom’s wedding. She also volunteered as a literacy tutor for adults in Chicago. Mary took good care of herself, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. She often helped in her sister-in-law's antique shop and even traveled to Europe to help her look for treasures to sell. For a while Maryattempted to hold for-profit yard sales, but this was before internet use was common and the secluded block on which she lived did not attract customers.
Mary was a neat, clean, frugal, and well-organized person, which made life easier for her son, Tom, who worked tirelessly to help her move from her house in Deerfield after the death of her husband in 2008. After a protracted search and a lot of internal conflict, Mary wisely chose to live at Smith Village in the Beverly neighborhood on the far southwest side of Chicago. Smith Village is a 25 minute drive from her son's house. There she flourished, joining the Smith Village Players and even writing the lyrics for the Smith Village song. Because of her slim figure, short stature, and agility, Mary was often cast in the roles of children or young women. She also very much enjoyed Smith's dinners focused on topics, such as travel destinations. She made good use of the gym and walked in the neighborhood for exercise, errands, and to go to St. Cajetan Church.
After turning 90 Mary experienced various health problems, including a severely arthritic shoulder, which restricted the movement of her right arm, painful hammer toes, which made it harder for her to walk, incipient macular degeneration, and neural problems including memory and balance issues. She also became progressively weaker due to aortic stenosis, a heart condition which was first diagnosed in 2019. She declined treatment by valve replacement. In June of 2021 her son Tom moved her to Assisted Living at Smith Village, which was initially a very difficult transition for Mary (and Tom).
Mary is survived by her sons, Hank Christianson of Melbourne, Florida, Tom Christianson and his wife Jan (Janet Fair-Christianson), who live in Hyde Park in Chicago, her sister Helen Hartnett who lives in Yorkville, Illinois, and her grandson, Eric Fair Christianson of Philadelphia. She was preceded in death by her husband Claus and her younger grandson, Mark Fair Christianson.
Instead of sending flowers, please make a contribution in Mary's name to the Emilie’s Fund of Smith Village(https://smithvillage.org/about-us/emilies-fund), which provides financial assistance to residents.
2320 W 113th Place, Chicago IL 60643