Florence Christensen, widow of Ballet West founder, dies
Florence Mary Jensen Goeglein Christensen, wife of Ballet West founder Willam Christensen, died Dec. 29 of natural causes at an inpatient hospice facility in Holladay. She was 94.
The Salt Lake City native and mother of four was a lover of the arts and dance years before she met Christensen, founder of the American West's most renowned ballet companies and institutions, at a 1972 neighborhood Christmas party.
A classically trained soprano who loved the operas of Puccini, she never missed a chance to travel with her sisters to New York City, where they stood in ticket lines for hours to see various plays and Broadway shows. She worked 17 years at the Utah Heart Association and was involved in the Salt Lake City Assistance League and Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
Her devotion to the arts only grew during the 28 years she spent with Christensen, nicknamed "Mr. C" in the ballet world, until his 2001 death. During those years she attended numerous Ballet West functions and performances, even when arthritis made her have to use a wheelchair.
She and 10 members of her family attended the Dec. 17 matinee performance of "The Nutcracker," a production Christensen helped make popular throughout the United States, the day before she entered the hospital. She died in her room at Caresource, 4500 S. Highland Drive.
The seventh of eight children to Artemisia and Peter Joseph Jensen and a longtime member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Florence Christensen graduated from East High School. She studied music in New York City until joining the Red Cross in 1944 at the age of 27. She met her first husband and fellow East High graduate, William K. Goeglein, on a U.S. Air Force base near London as one of four women serving an enlisted 4,000 men. Goeglein died of cancer in 1965, leaving Florence to care for their four teenage children.
Linda Christensen, the second youngest of her children, said her mother never expressed interest in other men after her first husband's death.
"We invited another widow from across the street to meet 'Mr. C' because we knew mom didn't date," said Christensen, a retired Salt Lake City real-estate broker who married a man unrelated to Willam Christensen. "We never even thought about her. Then Willam turned to a friend at the party and said, 'I like the redhead.' "
Christensen said the families meshed well because members of both loved the arts so much. The family spent most summers in Aspen, Colo., where Willam Christensen oversaw numerous ballet company rehearsals and performances.
Adam Sklute, artistic director of Ballet West, said he was honored to know Florence, describing her as a woman of charm and grace.
"She once told me, 'Bill would have really liked your work,' " Sklute said. "I will always hold onto that comment with great pride. She believed in Ballet West and in her husband's legacy. Ballet West's successes were her successes, and we all felt that."
Christensen is survived, in addition to Linda, by her children Barbara Marz, Bill Goeglein, James Goeglein and stepchildren Roxanne Lazzara and Lee Christensen.
Funeral services for Florence Christensen
P When • Jan. 6,1 p.m. Family will gather at 10:30 a.m.
Where • Monument Park 16th Ward Chapel, 1320 S. Wasatch Drive
Info • In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to Ballet West at 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
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