James Edward Christopherson
ISHPEMING, MI – July 27th, 1927 – August 31st, 2021. James Edward Christopherson, age 94, of Ishpeming, peacefully passed away August 31st, 2021, at his home.
Jim was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 27th, 1927, to Edward A. and Amy O. (Bladine) Christopherson. He grew up in Minneapolis, graduating from Marshall High School in 1945. Jim enrolled at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Psychology. He spoke fondly of his college employment at Churchill’s Standard gas station, where he learned many practical life lessons and a great deal about auto mechanics and repair. Always eager to acquire and apply new knowledge, he earned his private pilot’s license and purchased his first plane – a two-seater Aeronca Champion. Following receipt of his Bachelor’s Degree from the U. of M. in 1950, he enjoyed post-graduate courses at Macalester College in St. Paul.
In 1951, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Following basic training at Lackland AFB, Jim was assigned to the newly formed Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI). He received training in Washington, D.C., and a Top-Secret clearance classification. Being assigned to an airbase in Virginia, Jim’s duties were like that of a civilian plain clothes police detective. He was charged with investigating criminal infractions committed by Air Force personnel and providing background investigations of prospective Air Force recruits applying for duty in sensitive military positions.
Jim was transferred to Furstenfeldbruk AFB, near Munich, Germany, during the Allied occupation. His duties included investigating former Nazi individuals in Bavaria, including a former SS Colonel who had not been charged during the War Crimes Trials – but was still feared by many local German citizens.
In 1952, while on a special leave from the U.S. Air Force, he married Gloria Auerbach, in Minneapolis, MN. They lived at several bases in the U.S. and Germany. Upon Jim’s discharge, they moved to Chicago where he attended McCormick Seminary. Following Jim’s receipt of his Bachelor of Divinity, he answered the call to minister to two small congregations in Stanley and White Earth, N.D., being ordained by the Presbyterian Church, in 1958. It was during this time that Jim and Gloria started their family.
Jim’s next ministerial calling came in 1963, to Le Claire, IA. During Jim’s ministry the congregation persevered in the construction of a new church building, which was completed in 1968. Christian Education was a priority of Jim and Gloria’s ministry, as was participation in a mission group whose outreach program strongly supported the Civil Rights Movement, including the creation of a garden project serving an inner-city congregation.
Jim’s theology continuously evolved throughout his career. He saw his role as a “teaching minister”, preferring not to preach “sermons” but, instead, offering thoughts and ideas from the Scriptures he described as “For Your Consideration”.
In 1971, Jim was called to serve the United Presbyterian Church of Ishpeming. He did so for 18 years. Shortly after beginning his ministry, a need for activities for local youth became apparent. The congregation established a Teen Night in the church’s Fellowship Hall, open to area youth on weekend evenings. Jim was one of the chaperones, and he delighted in coming to know many of Ishpeming’s youth. In turn, this portion of his ministry earned him their friendship and respect. This endeavor became an example which spearheaded the community to form the Ishpeming Youth Center. Jim was also a founding member of the weekly Pericope study group, enjoying discussions and interpretations of God’s Word with area ministers of various denominations.
In his retirement, Jim shared his time and talents volunteering with organizations including the Marquette County Humane Society, Room at the Inn, Presbytery Point Camp, and Trinity Lutheran Church’s Homework Club. Jim was capable of doing many different things – and doing them well. He was always questioning, researching, and experimenting. His family was often amazed at his logic, ingenuity, and problem-solving skills in his numerous endeavors. He was truly a modern “Renaissance man”.
Jim loved to meet people and treated each person, regardless of their age or social status, with dignity and respect. Jim was an excellent listener and fine conversationalist, no matter the subject being discussed. He was a genial and modest man, with an excellent wit and a fine sense of humor. He was always willing to lend a hand to help others. Jim loved animals, particularly the canine companions he considered to be dear friends. He enjoyed many genres of music and the arts, appreciating Public Radio and TV, local exhibits, plays, and musical performances. Jim was an advocate for the provision of an excellent education for our youth and was a staunch supporter of the Ishpeming School District.
Jim especially enjoyed time spent at the cabin in northern Minnesota, that his parents purchased in 1943. Jim became an expert fisherman, including fly-fishing. He learned how to sail as he approached the age of 70. He loved all forms of nature found at the cabin, calling it his “Shangri-La”. He was an environmentalist and naturalist. He enjoyed tinkering with, and repairing, his numerous vintage outboard motors. Until recent years, Jim was also rebuilding an antique wooden speedboat and maintaining the cabin and property with loving care. He missed visiting the cabin only while stationed in Germany – and in this current year.
Jim was a patient and loving Dad, always supporting his children in their endeavors with encouragement, suggestions, and sound advice. He was an excellent role model for his children to look to as to how to best live their lives. His children are so very proud of him and the life he led.
He is survived by sons, Peter (Karen) Christopherson of Sheboygan, WI, Calvin (Amy) Christopherson of Wisconsin; daughter, Caron Christopherson (Don Peterson) of Michigamme, MI and grandsons, Jacob and Justin Christopherson.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Gloria; parents, Edward and Amy Christopherson, sister, Adele Branch, brother-in-law, Harold Branch, parents-in-law, Caesar and Carol Auerbach and twin grandsons, Jordan and Joshua Christopherson.
A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date due to the resurgence of Covid-19. A notice of the celebration will be forthcoming as health and safety permit.
The family wishes to thank Jim’s many friends and his church family for their love and support and is very grateful for Jim’s compassionate support team from U.P. Home Health and Hospice for their care and assistance in honoring his wish to stay in his home.
In his memory, friends are asked to consider contributions to WNMU-Public TV13, 1401 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette, MI 49855; Partridge Creek Farm, P.O. Box 4, Ishpeming, MI 49849; Ishpeming Salvation Army, 222 E. Division St., Ishpeming, MI 49849; or Doctors Without Borders, P.O. Box 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5030.
Jim’s obituary may be viewed at bjorkandzhulkie.com, where relatives and friends may leave a note of remembrance.