Life lessons learned with the Christensen family’s 7 Hall of Fame children

The Hall of Fame Christensen clan. Back Row (l to r): Wes, Ralph, Dave, Owen, Lynn Front Row (l to r): Florence Holtshouser, Ivan, Arnie, Kathryn Widman | Photo courtesy Lynn Christensen

St. GEORGE – Bump, slap, thud and ouch were such sounds that could be heard from anywhere on the Christensen property – the unmistakable sounds of highly-competitive sports.

For one to get inducted into a Hall of Fame is quite the accomplishment. It shows one has succeeded to the highest level possible for a given sport. It may even be considered the crowning accomplishment amongst a handful of accolades that have been collected over a life time. One is something special, but the Christensen family has seven inductees – all for fast-pitch softball – and is certainly something not seen every day.

  • 2013 Inductees – Ivan Christensen, Arnie Christensen and Lynn Christensen
  • 2014 Inductees – Florence Holtshouser and Owen Christensen
  • 2016 Inductees – Ralph Christensen and Wes Christensen
The Christensen home in Providence, Utah | Photo courtesy Lynn Christensen

“I grew up in Providence next door to the Christensens and had the great privilege to be friends with the entire family,” said R. Wayne Griffin, in his letters of recommendation for Wes and Ralph Christensen “I consider them to be among the most outstanding group of athletes to be raised in the Cache Valley [area].”

A nomination into the Utah Softball Hall of Fame is quite something. Only a handful of individuals are given the opportunity to join such a community each year. Though the seven Christensen siblings were not all inducted into the Hall of Fame in the same year, their entrance is still phenomenal.

In order to get into the Hall of Fame, individuals need to meet certain requirements and be nominated by one who already finds themself in the club. The following is the list of requirements:

  • An individual shall be considered for nomination to the Utah Softball Hall of Fame based on their contribution to the game of softball in Utah.
  • Players must have played a minimum of 10 years of softball in the state of Utah or have reached 50 years of age.
  • Umpires must have served as an umpire a minimum of 10 years in the state of Utah or have reached 50 years of age.
  • Management and/or Manager/Coach have served for a minimum of 10 years in the state of Utah or have reached 50 years of age.
  • Administrator and/or Scorer must have served a minimum of 10 years as Administrator or Scorer, or reached 50 years of age.
  • Sponsors and Media
  • Junior Players must be a Utah resident and have played a minimum of five years of softball in the state of Utah as a junior player (23 years and younger).

Sports were everything to the nine children of Arnold and Rachel Christensen: Florence (93), Arnie (92), Dave (89), Wes (87), Kathryn (84), Ivan (83), Owen (81 and deceased), Ralph (79) and Lynn (74). It didn’t matter the size of the court, shape of the ball, or what team they played for. If it got them outside, they did it.

The Utah Softball Hall of Fame said the Christensen children were “taught good work ethics, great family values [and] good religious values.”

The Providence softball diamond as pictured by the Logan Herald Journal | Photo courtesy Lynn Christensen

They could be found anywhere within a few mile radius of their home in Providence (just a couple miles south of Logan) on any given day – the neighboring town’s ball diamond or at the basketball standard just to the side of their house. They were always doing something.

Florence Holtshouser, the eldest sister, and Arnie Christensen, the eldest son, may be considered the sporting pioneers within the Christensen family. Since neither parent was ever involved in sports, these two led the way.

Speaking about his oldest sister, Ivan Christensen said, “She was the first athlete in the Christensen family and probably the best.”

Quite the compliment coming from “Cache Valley’s most versatile athlete,” as stated by the Logan Herald Journal in 1957.

Following the difficult years of the Great Depression, Cache Valley was the place to be if you loved fast-pitch softball – men or women, didn’t matter. Businesses sponsored teams while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put together leagues of its own for youth and adults.

If you were a Christensen sibling, you found yourself on at least one of these teams, if not more. Fast-pitch softball was in its hay-day in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, especially in the Providence and Wellsville area.

Former Pine View and Hurricane basketball coach Lynn Christensen as pictured in this Spectrum newspaper photo | Photo courtesy Lynn Christensen

Lynn Christensen, the youngest child, said that if a sibling was playing, you were there to watch. Dad would come and watch the boys, but often wouldn’t know who to cheer for because it got the point where siblings were facing siblings. Mother, on the other hand, was never there, he mentioned with a little chuckle.

“Mother didn’t like the sports because she was always worried about someone getting hurt,” Lynn Christensen said. “She wouldn’t go watch. She may sometimes turn on the radio.”

As you can imagine in a house of nine children, with seven of them being boys, things got rough. Lynn Christensen said there were a lot fights among the boys. There were many times where one would walk away with splinters in his arms after being rammed into the wooden-barn door. If tears were present, the other kids would tell you to get lost, he said with a sly smile. But each sibling always had each other’s back.

Maybe the slogan “There’s no crying in [sports],” would have been an appropriate saying to have painted across the front of the Christensen barn.

“We had to keep up with the older brothers and if we didn’t, we got worked over,” Ralph Christensen said. “You took your knocks, but sometimes you got your knocks in, too. That is why we didn’t mind football and some of the competitive sports when you are hitting into each other and you have contact [because] we had contact all the way up through with the older brothers.”

The hours of hard work paid off tremendously for the Christensen siblings. Growing up, each kid excelled in various sports, including fast-pitch softball. Holtshouser pitched for the Providence Peaches (a dominant ladies team in the Cache Valley area) and the Draper Feed & Seed. Six of the seven brothers (Lynn was the bat boy) were given the opportunity to play the Queen and her Court while young men– a group of female softball players, similar to the Harlem Globetrotters, that traveled the state of Utah playing various teams. Ralph Christensen lettered in four sports as a senior in high school: tennis, basketball, football and baseball. Lynn Christensen, along with Ivan Christensen and Arnie Christensen (the coach),  went as far as playing in a national softball tournament back in Rock Island, Ill., in 1966.

Because the Christensen family was fueled by its passion and love for sports, life lessons were often taught and recognized. Lynn Christensen said he and his siblings learned valuable lessons like teamwork, cooperation, perseverance, hard work, persistence and competition. These were things that helped each of the siblings become the people they are today.

To further add to his brother’s words, Ralph Christensen said: “Being competitive helps you in life. You don’t win all the time and you have to be able to bounce back. When talent doesn’t work hard, hard work beats talent.”

As the siblings grew older, each moved on and started families of their own. Some remained close to home while others moved away. Yet each carried with them the Christensen name and what it meant to be one.

The Hall of Fame Christensen clan. Back Row (l to r): Wes, Ralph, Dave, Owen, Lynn
Front Row (l to r): Florence Holtshouser, Ivan, Arnie, Kathryn Widman | Photo courtesy Lynn Christensen

Wes Christensen coached for nearly 40 years including time at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). Lynn Christensen moved to St. George to play sports at Dixie College (now Dixie State University) and coached at Hurricane and Pine View High Schools. Holtshouser moved to Salt Lake City to start a family and has now been serving food voluntarily to the homeless for more than 50 years at St. Vincent de Paul’s – receiving the Catholic Community Services Unsung Hero Award in 2012. Ivan Christensen played tennis and basketball at Utah State University. Arnie Christensen even had a ball diamond named after him in Wellsville.

Though sports has meant a lot to each of the Christensen siblings, even the two who chose to excel in other sports and areas, are grateful for the impact sports has had in their lives.

Ralph Christensen sums it up nicely when he said, “To me, sports mean a lot in life. They kind of get you ready for life. The main thing is that you try and do your best and usually you will [make it].”

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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