Ann Fellows Christenson

Ann Fellows Christenson

Ann Fellows Christenson

Iowa City

10/05/1936 – 03/03/2024

Although it is unusual to have an obituary in the first person, this is my last chance to encourage others to live meaningful lives. Here goes, in my own words:

“You’re a tough old broad,” a nurse told me. “A salty old lady,” was my granddaughter’s opinion. “She’s a badass,” my doctor told a med student. Suitable epitaphs, I think, for one who tried to make a difference.

Making a difference in life is mostly a matter of just showing up. I first showed up in Alice, Texas, October 5, 1936. I grew up in Houston, the segregated south. There I observed firsthand appalling inequities.

I attended the University of Iowa, my parents’ alma mater. While there, I showed up to shake hands with Eleanor Roosevelt. I showed up to help bring folk singer Pete Seegar to town after the University refused to host him. After graduation in 1958, I struck out immediately for Manhattan, lived in Greenwich Village, and worked at Time magazine.

I showed up in Harlem to do office work for Operations Crossroads Africa on my days off, earning me a workcamp summer in Sierra Leone, followed by three months bumming around Europe. Upon return to the U.S., I was employed by an Indianapolis newspaper, then recruited to market the Indianapolis Art Museum. From there, freelance public relations led to a job promoting a library system in northwest Indiana.

Before I left Indiana, I met the most ethical, devoted man I’ve ever known, John Christenson. Our courtship was by snail mail, as I migrated to Australia by ship through the South Seas. After I’d been working in Sydney for six months, John persuaded me to return. I took my time to complete my voyage around the world.

We married at my parents’ home in Houston, started wedded life in Stamford, Connecticut, and soon moved to Rockledge, Florida, where John became director of the county library surrounding Cape Canaveral. Four years later his career took us to Minnesota. I worked in public relations and marketing and earned a Master’s Degree in Urban & Regional Studies. Retirement brought a move to the Iowa City area to be closer to our two wonderful kids and their families.

We traveled widely. We visited Antarctica, South America, Japan, and Canada. We took canal boat trips in the U.K. and bicycled from Calais, France, to the Hague with our teenagers. Backpacking coast to coast across England with my teenage son was an unforgettable experience.

In 2010, showing up gave me the opportunity to be one of only 2,411 North Americans participating in the 20,000 person ASPREE Project, an international study dedicated to discovering how to maintain years of a good quality life.

In 2012, I helped found, educating, advocating, and agitating for a livable future. Our members show up. We show up at protests. We show up at hearings. We show up in parades. Showing up sometimes means being arrested, as I was in front of the White House, August 2011, and again on the Mississippi River, November 2019, fighting fossil fuel pipelines.

I’ve learned that throughout life there is one overriding truth – we are all connected, connected to one another and connected to all of Mother Earth. We are now on the cusp of destroying all that is dear to us. My fervent hope is that you who come after me show up. Show up to stop the hate. Show up to stop violence. Show up to demonstrate love.

No one of us can solve problems on a global scale, but that shouldn’t deter us from trying to make a difference in our own sphere. Just show up.

To my family and friends whom I have cherished and anyone else who cares, please never fail to show up. Never fear to take a stand for others and for our planet. Please show up!

Ann leaves behind John Christenson, her husband of 54 years, her children Nathaniel Christenson (Laura) and Katharine Dale (Matthew Bock), grandchildren Magdalena Dale, Adrian Dale, and Elijah Bock, step-granddaughter Mint McMahon, sister Carol Fellows (Tim Bewley), sisters-in-law Anna Christenson and Colleen Fellows, nieces, nephews, and cousins – and many amazing friends. Two younger brothers predeceased her.

A funeral service will be held March 10, 2024 at 1:00 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, Iowa City, followed by a Celebration of Life reception at 2:00 pm. Donations in Ann’s name may go to, P.O. Box 1422, Iowa City, IA 52244, or the Iowa Women’s Archives, U of I Libraries.

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