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Longtime Fargo sportscaster Boyd Christenson passes away

Boyd Christenson

FARGO - Boyd Christenson, who died Tuesday at the age of 73, was known by many in the Fargo-Moorhead area for his rapid-fire wit and wide, dimpled grin.

Those who knew him best say the friendly man audiences heard on radio and saw on TV was the same person off the air: someone who was quick to help a friend - or a stranger - or to play a prank on a co-worker.

Christenson, a legendary sportscaster, once walked onto the set of WDAY TV while his colleague, Dewey Bergquist, was doing the weather.

With a towel draped waiter-like over one arm, Christenson presented Bergquist with the remains of a sandwich.

"He said, 'Sir, you left half of your turkey sandwich. You should eat the whole thing,' " recalled Marv Bossart, a retired WDAY news anchor.

"Then he (Christenson) walked off the set and away he went. We all just lost it," said Bossart, who spent many years on air with Bergquist and Christenson.

"Dewey's gone, too," Bossart said after a pause.

"I have people today that come up and say they miss us. That's very rewarding to me. I know Dewey and Boyd would feel the same way," Bossart said.

Christenson, who died Tuesday morning at his Fargo home surrounded by family, had been living with Alzheimer's, an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.

His daughter, Mona Christenson Barz, said growing up with a famous father was a bit of a paradox.

"On the one hand, it made me incredibly happy to watch him in action," she said. "I was always just kind of in awe of him, the way he moved about with people; how sincerely interested in people he was.

"But also, as his child, it felt a little bit like I had to share him with everybody," Christenson Barz said.

From the early 1960s to the late 1970s, Christenson was the radio "voice of the Bison" for North Dakota State University.

He was named North Dakota sportscaster of the year three times and was inducted into the North Dakota sportscasters and sportswriters hall of fame in 1990.

Jim Adelson, fellow hall of famer and a rival of Christenson's during their on-air years, remembered Christenson on Tuesday as a giant of their profession.

"He had great talent and he made a great mark on the Fargo-Moorhead television and radio industry," said Adelson, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Christenson's son, Mark, said his father interviewed many celebrities, from Johnny Cash to Zsa Zsa Gabor.

But he said what satisfied his father most was con-necting with ordinary folks and people who were down and out.

It was not unusual, he said, for his father to open his home to people he didn't know and to share whatever he had.

"I thought strangers coming to your table for Christmas, or Thanksgiving, was normal," Mark Christenson said.

Natalia Espejo-Christenson said the amount of goodwill generated by her grandfather became apparent to her about 10 years ago, when her mother, Laura, was dying of cancer.

She said people she had never met would approach her to ask how she was doing.

"They would say: 'We love your family so much.'

"I didn't know I could be loved by someone I didn't know," Espejo-Christenson said.

Christenson, a native of Rugby, N.D., who grew up in Minot, N.D., began his broadcast career in the early 1950s at radio stations KLPM and KCJB in Minot.

In the late 1950s, he worked for KNOX radio and TV in Grand Forks, N.D.

By 1964, he was in Fargo, working for WDAY radio and TV, where he was sports director until the late 1970s.

He then took a job with Prairie Public Television, where he worked for about eight years.

Christenson's wife, Marlene, said her husband very much enjoyed his work as a sportscaster, but took the job with Prairie Public because it allowed him more time with family.

She said he once passed up a job offer from a TV station in the Twin Cities because he felt it would take him away from his family.

She said her husband had a tender spot in his heart for the lonely, recalling the time he befriended a nursing home resident who phoned his radio call-in show.

"Boyd kind of drew her out, and it turned out she was an only child, taught school, never married, and she was blind," Marlene Christenson said.

She said her husband visited the nursing home often to read to his friend and the woman would recite from memory poetry she once taught in school.

"They had a relationship that lasted 14 years, and she died at 90-something," Marlene Christenson said.

Then she added something she had told herself she wouldn't mention, something her husband shared with her early in their relationship, when they first began talking about "serious kinds of things."

In a soft voice, she recalled what he told her.

"He said, 'I want it to say on my headstone: He loved people.' ''

For visitation and funeral information, see Obituaries.

(Article by Dave Olson, Fargo Forum.)