Jon Christensen Passes: Would-Be Candidate, Ecology Activist, and Blogger

by on August 30, 2013 · 29 comments

in History, Life Events, Ocean Beach

Jon Christensen 8-25-13 brent

The last photo taken of Jon Christensen, while at a San Diego Free Press meeting, Aug. 25, 2013. Photo by Brent Beltran.

Our good friend Jon Christensen passed away on Wednesday, August 28th, due to a heart attack.  Jon would have been 64 on September 9th.

Jon wrote for the OB Rag and for the San Diego Free Press on occasion, and wrote under his initials “JEC”. His last piece – just posted on August 20th – called for the establishment of bicycle expressways throughout San Diego.

Much could be said about this former OBcean, who came to San Diego 40 years ago.  He was a “survivor” at the County where he was employed for 30 years as staff and managers for elected officials.  He was an avid sailor – twenty years ago, he designed and built his own trimaran and took it on its maiden sail in the Sea of Cortez.

Jon was a projects man, always had some project going on, whether designing a new boat, or building a landscaping wall in this backyard, or writing novels – he wrote 5 and was in the process of self-publishing them -, or running for City Council.

Being a candidate for the 2nd District was his latest project and he was just getting his campaign off the ground when he passed.  He had begun writing position papers and studying MTS latest proposals.

Jon leaves his wife, Sally, of over 25 years, his son Eric, and his step-daughter Cynthia and her new husband Robb, and Cynthia’s three children, Nicolas, Madaline, and Christopher.  Jon and Sally had lived in the Bay Park neighborhood of Clairemont for a quarter of a century, finding their perch overlooking Tecolote Canyon.

CicloDias 8-11-13 30thBus

Jon Christensen – in green shirt – during CicloSDias, on 30th Street.

Also more recently, Jon developed a passion for mass transit, and had become a constructive and informed critic of our trolleys and railroads.  He was amazed at how far behind America and California were compared to Japan, China and Europe in terms of high-speed rail.

Very active physically, Jon could be seen riding his bicycle around Mission Bay, or catching waves off the small jetty in OB, and playing golf every Thursday – all of this in any one week.  He grew up in surfing the shores of LA County.

He had a series of health problems – one of his favorite sayings was “getting old sucks” – and went through a bout of graves disease, he complained recently of arthritis, and he had a quadruple-bypass surgery 6 years ago.  Never one to allow his problems to get the best of him, Jon forged on with his life and his projects – especially now that he was retired.

Politically conscious having gone to college during the Vietnam war days, and achieving a degree in sociology, he had lived with activists from VVAW – Vietnam Vets Against the War up in Los Angeles in the early Seventies.  Jon grew up in San Fernando valley, went to a small college in Nebraska, until he made his way west again.

Jon and his then-wife Bonnie arrived in Ocean Beach on Labor Day, 1973, and found old friends living just steps from the beach.  Over the next few years, Jon was involved in numerous progressive causes in OB – the Human Rights Coalition, the Community Planning Group, Common Ground, to name a few.  For years Jon and roommates lived on Brighton Avenue and his home became a social and political center for a while.

When he left OB, he went on to obtain his Masters in Social Work, got an entry job at the County, met his future wife Sally there where she worked as an accountant.  They settled in Clairemont and began making a new life for themselves.

One of his personal highpoints was developing and writing up a grandiose proposal for the South Bay region of San Diego, and he tried to pitch it to several folks with deep pockets, but they couldn’t go for his far-sighted vision of what and how that area could be developed ecologically and with high levels of self-sustainability.

Jon always kept in touch with his friends who stayed in OB. He was always supportive of neighborhood and grassroots activism here – which was his touchstone – and became involved in numerous environmental issues over the years, and always bringing a practical attitude to dealing with politics.

This is what led Jon to thinking he had to run for City Council. He was very disgusted with the current crop of politicos out there, and insisted that what government needed was non-politicians who could get the job done.

If he had lasted, Jon Eric Christensen would have been a candidate for District 2 – the district that includes Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, southwest Clairemont, Point Loma. We are the worse off now that he was decided to take his projects elsewhere.

Jon has really not passed. He’s just on one of his numerous train trips or cruises or sailings and he’ll soon be back with all kinds of critiques of the method and manner of his trip.  That’s the way he is.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman August 30, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I am shocked, having just met this intelligent irrepressible person in the trademark hat at the recent SD Free Press meeting where Brent Beltran took this wonderful picture. Who
imagined this could be possible? I am so very sorry and send my condolences to John’s wife and children.


Dana Levy August 30, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Thank you for recognizing this rare type of San Diegan that I am lucky to have called a real friend. I, along with 6 others (and a few other show ups from time to time), did keep our weekly date at Balboa for a lively 9 hole excursion (for at least the last 12 years or so) followed by a short jaunt down to The Princess Pub to continue our weekly updates on our local, and the more lofty, state of politics at the state and national levels dealing with a multitude of topics, each of which Jon was always educated about and ready to defend his positions and keep us on topic. He was known to enjoy Guinness and the lively discussions and was always ready to greet friends and strangers alike and get them involved too. It won’t be the same now and without him we are all the poorer. He was prolific in both writing and thinking seriously and encouraged all he knew to get involved and participate. He and I had long conversations about agnosticism, anti-theism, and atheism and although we often had differing applications of those terms we did agree that it was quite difficult to be take seriously the supernatural. It was his health that worked to keep him circumscribed, from the heart problems from the past to the arthritis and gout that hindered his golf swing now, but he was always there and also never shied away from enjoying his boating on the bay with those friends he had on the water. We are both old surfers and got out less frequently as time passed but the spirit was always keen. Jon was a passionate citizen for the changing of the system for the betterment of all and his spirit will live on wherever a systemic standard is found to be lacking or a social failing dominates. Salud , slainte, and cheers to Jon!


Anna Daniels August 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Jon supported the San Diego Free Press from the very beginning and throughout our first year. He was good company and enjoyed sharing his varied experiences and prodigious knowledge. I haven’t begun to find the words yet to express my feelings of profound loss. His spirit abides.


Jon August 30, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I remember meeting Jon at a party at Frank & Patty’s place in OB a few years back. He was quite the character, and we hit it off immediately. I’m shocked at this news, and I wish his family and extended OB Rag family peace and comfort during what must be a terribly difficult time. My sincerest condolences to all.


Frank Gormlie September 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Jon C – you and JEC were the only “Johns” that spelled your name “Jon” – stay well my friend.


Dave Rice August 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm

I never got to meet Jon, but always appreciated reading his takes here and at SDFP. Will miss his insights. Best wishes to his family and friends.


John McCormick August 31, 2013 at 8:16 am

I wrote a blog on some of the things Jon did and what he meant to me.


Frank Gormlie August 31, 2013 at 9:02 am

John – great thoughts on Jon C. Thank you so much for sharing them.


judi curry August 31, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Hard to believe we were all together on the 25th. Teased him about the close proximity to the egg rolls that were on the table. He will be missed by all.


Mark Dodge September 1, 2013 at 8:32 am

I have been bumping into Jon every few years since the early 80’s. We have a few mutual friends. He was a thinker. It was fun and challenging to drill deep into various issues with him. Hard to believe we were both riding the CicloSDias just a few weeks ago. I wish I had seen him there.


Dickie September 1, 2013 at 9:33 am

I knew Jon for almost 40 years, though saw him only occasionally since moving from OB in 1980. My most vivid memory of him was his committed participation in the old OB Human Rights Committee, a local community group very involved in the efforts to reform SDPD practices in that era [didn’t I say that politely?]. My fondest memory of Jon is that his old dog, Saykus [sp?] was one of my old dog Layla’s closest friend . . . His breadth of interests and active pursuits always staggered me whether in the life of the mind or body. He was sometimes into things more than I cared to be, but I have to say he was always into things that were interesting. A most sincere and hearty soul. gone way to soon to have to be missed . . . rip, Jon.


Frank Gormlie September 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Jon Christensen and I met 40 years ago today – Labor Day 1973. He and Bonnie had been tripping on the beach – they hadn’t moved here yet, I don’t think – and ran into Roger O – my roommate – who they knew from San Fernando Valley; and of course, Roger brought them to our apartment on the last block of Cape May – and I was sitting on the couch doing shots of to-kill-ya when they walked in. We became instant friends. Jon and I were talking about celebrating this 40th anniversary Monday night – a week ago – a day and half before he passed.

I also helped them find their great Brighton Ave house – which Jon lived in for many, many years.


Debbi September 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Just cannot believe the news. I met Jon when he was living at Brighton and I lived at Rock House. Fun times but the best was the week long sailing trip with Manny, Dana, Lise, Jon and Bonnie to Catalina; crazy fun time. Hadn’t seen him in awhile but the last time I did, he was his same ole self; such a grin. You will be missed.


Wayne September 2, 2013 at 11:25 am

I only had the pleasure of knowing Jon for the last 3 or 4 years. In that time we went on
Several bike rides around mission bay and sweetwater reservoir. I was aware that Jon had medical issues, but he never hesitated to live life to the fullest. He was a competent mountian biker who was never afraid of a challenging ride.
Sometimes when we would stop and rest we would sit by the river and talk about life, politics, sailing, and Vegas. I will really miss these times with Jon.


Citizen Cane September 2, 2013 at 11:57 am

In Jon’s last article he wrote: “I was hoping (to) see folks wearing regular clothes as if they were going to school or work” and this leads me to think that maybe we can honor Jon by having an annual bike ride where participants are required to wear everyday clothes. No lycra suits or $2K roadbikes will be welcomed on a bike ride around Mission Bay, or maybe the half bay ride. We could call the event “Just Everyday Cyclists” or simply JEC for short.


Frank Gormlie September 2, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Nice idea


Gary Ghirardi September 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm

So sorry to hear this.


John Pierce September 2, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Jon will always be one of the most interesting people that I have ever met. The same would be true if I were to live 300 years. Jon was instantly interested in whoever he had just met. That is one of the things that impressed me. No matter who it was, what they did or where we were he wanted to know about the person he was talking to. I have interduced people to Jon knowing the other person’s day would be better because of it. I have spent many a night at Jon and Sally’s house (I’m a nephew) and the conversations, meals, and times at the beach will always be remembered and described to my son in detail for many many years.
We should all be lucky enough to leave a mark; Jon left many marks and I am lucky to be able to miss this guy so much.

Keep the wind to your back Jon Eric.

John Eric


Stuart L. Smits September 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I am terribly saddened to hear of Jon’s passing.
He was a true Renaissance Man; a man of immense intellectual pursuits, a probing listener and great questioner of many things, particularly injustices; a lover of life and his family and friends.
He was a giver in the truest respect of the word. He knew his time was limited (as all of us are), and he lived a life with full gusto. He enlisted me many times into his causes knowing my sucker Irish heart and sentiments were closely akin to his. We once rode the entire South Bay, which he knew by heart. He started a trust to preserve and reestablish the natural estuaries.
He was authentic and would have made an excellent elected representative. He would have reset a bar of performance that has been absent on the local scene for many years. We should all aspire to reach for greater good, as was Jon’s passion.
RIP Brother Jon.


Ernie McCray September 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Truly a great spirit. Seemed so alive at our last meeting of the San Diego Free Press on Sunday, the 25th of August. We’ll keep his spirit afloat.


Rick Phetteplace September 2, 2013 at 7:22 pm

It was an honor to work with Jon Christensen in the County of San Diego around the 90’s. He was a great manager. The County is constantly trying to improve everything it does, including the pricing of the outcomes its citizens desire, such as educational progress that a new library supports or the public safety of a new sheriff substation. Jon Christensen produced one of the best 5 year capital plans ever, covering every department in the County.

Almost daily he would treat us with a lecture out of his vast knowledge from many fields, especially sociology. I could never believe it when he told me that he was such an introvert, so shy that his classmates working on their master’s degree decided that they needed to mount an intervention for him. Either he really did not need it, or whatever they did was a phenomenal success!

Jon had real charisma, intellectual heft and practical drive. I am truly saddened by his passing, and I offer my sincere condolences to his family and many friends.

Rick Phetteplace


Marc September 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Rest in peace Jon.


fstued September 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

Jon was a great friend and sailing mate. He and I owned 3 boats together and spent may long hours at sea discussing any and everything while trying to make the boat go fast. I would always get a laugh when Jon would yell and say “I AM NOT YELLING I JUST WANT TO BE HEARD”. This would usually happen when things were in great chaos and Jon was on the fore deck.
I just spent the weekend on the last boat he and I had together, I eventually bought his half. Everywhere I looked on the boat I saw his improvements or things that still needed to be done per his recommendation.
We continued to race and sail together after the partnership ended and I always looked forward to the discussions that would happen while we sailed.
Our last summer racing series in his new boat was a good one. We didn’t win, we knew we wouldn’t but we did do well and had fun. The long distance races were always the best because they allowed for more conversation on a variety of subjects and Jon had valid thought and knowledge on all of them.
Jon, my friend you will be missed by all who knew you and you will give us a reason to keep living and to raise a pint in your honor. Thank you


Colleen Dietzel September 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I got to know Jon a little better through Frank and Stu the last few years. As I read the OB Rag and SDFP I got to know him more and I was impressed. As I read about his life from all these posts I wish I would have had the time to get to know him even more. My thoughts are with his beautiful wife, Sally, and his children and to all his friends that will miss him so much, especially Frank and Stu.


Eric Christensen September 3, 2013 at 11:07 pm

It is very nice to see all of these wonderful things written about a great man. I Love him and will miss him more than any amount of words can detail. But to see all of this is a saving grace. It is everlasting to know that he touched so many lives as much as I imagined.
The lessons he taught me are endless and everyday I will be more and more grateful for what I had and have. He truly cared about everyone he encountered.

I Love you and will miss you always Dad


Stuart L. Smits September 4, 2013 at 8:48 am

You were at the top of your Dad’s list of quality guys. He spoke of you all the time and was very proud.
It has been my experience that grieving is one of those “G” words. It is a dark tunnel one enters with only a flicker of light at the other end. But, that flicker of light is another “G” word, which is GRATITUDE. If you focus on the many gifts and pearls of wisdom Jon imparted to you, for which you have so much to be grateful for, it lightens your load. Starting your day remembering his laugh and all that he has passed on to you should put a smile on your face.
“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold Jon in the palm of His hand.”
Take care amigo.


OB Moving September 4, 2013 at 7:40 am

Nice to feel after reading blog


Shirley Carrero September 4, 2013 at 7:44 am

I worked with both Jon and Sally at the County of San Diego. Was sorry to hear of his passing. He was a unique individual whose work ethic was beyond compare. May God bless you, Sally and the rest of your family.


Ellen Fry September 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Those of us who worked with Jon at the County of San Diego, knew that he really lived life to its fullest. He was a man of action and adventure. Many of us lived vicariously through his stories. He was bigger than life, yet he lived life and taught the rest of us to try to do the same. I remember a time when he took vacation time and comp. time off to get his teaching degree and did his student teaching, so that he could work with kids and try to make their lives better. This was Jon trying to make the world better….and he did – for all of us who knew him.


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