Grand marshal profile: Jan and Ruth Christensen of Gunnison
By Thamina Christensen
GUNNISON—After fulfilling a lifetime of community service, Gunnison residents Jan and Ruth Christensen are being honored this year as the grand marshal of the annual Fourth of July parade.
Jan and Ruth met at Brigham Young University in the 1960s. Jan was pursuing a degree in chemistry with a pre-med emphasis and Ruth was working on her master’s degree in education. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1970 and moved to California, where Jan started medical school at Loma Linda University School of Medicine.
A residency in family practice medicine brought Jan and Ruth and their three children to Charleston, South Carolina. Living in the south introduced the family to new cuisines and cultures.
Jan relates, “While growing up in Southern California, visiting Grandma and Grandpa Dyreng in Manti was often our destination for a summer vacation. I often thought to myself during those summer visits that if I ever had some control over my future home and family that I’d like to live in Sanpete County. The Gunnison hospital offered me the invitation that allowed that to happen.”
Ruth, who was born in Idaho and raised in Idaho, Nevada and Utah, also liked the idea of moving to Gunnison as it aligned closely with their goal of living near family and raising their children in a close-knit community. By summer’s end in 1978, the Christensens settled in “the pink house” next to the Gunnison Hospital.
Since returning to Gunnison, Jan and Ruth have dedicated their time serving and working in the Gunnison community. Jan managed his own medical practice, retiring in 2012, and working in different capacities at Gunnison Valley Hospital, including time as Chief of Medical Staff.
Jan and Ruth also volunteered their time and musical talents to local theater productions as members of the GVHS
musical orchestra with Jan on trumpet and Ruth on the piano. They also founded a fifteen member stage band “All That Jazz.”
Jan and Ruth have actively served in numberous callings as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Christensens are quick to acknowledge the great blessing of our free nation. “The events that we commemorate on the Fourth of July, the founding of this great nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights, are of enormous consequence in the history of the world,” Jan said.
The Christensens have eight children, Suzy, Richard, Melissa, Kathrine, Thamina, Lucille, Annette and Paul and 32 grandchildren.