James F. Christensen, also known as “Big Jim,” was born to Lorraine and Elroy Christensen on May 28, 1953 in Chicago. The family grew to include his twin sisters, Karen Christensen and Diane (Schultz), and Donna (Sutcliffe). He was lovingly known to them as “Jimmie.” His sisters adore him!
Jim was raised in the parish of St. Pascal Catholic Church and attended St. Patrick High School where he graduated in 1971. He played basketball in high school and was highly recruited by various colleges around the country to play college basketball. He went on to play at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, VA and later transferred to Bradley University in Peoria, IL. Some of his teammates from Bradley still remained his closest friends until his death. Jim received his bachelor’s degree at DePaul University and then earned his MBA at Keller Graduate School of Management.
He worked at Northern Trust Company for 28 years in the Teller area, Security Management, and finished his career helping to start the Business Continuity plan at Northern when that corporate function was in its infancy. He continued to help manage that function until he left in 2003. Jim was fortunate enough to meet the love of his life, Sandy (Fara), whom he married in June of 1979. They were blessed with two children, Katie (Matt Heitman) and Jay (Megan Mason). Jim and Sandy were further blessed with three grandchildren in the past five years. Caleb and Makena Heitman and Eden Christensen have been the joy of their lives.
Jim and Sandy moved to Crystal Lake in 1988 where they became active in the community. Jim joined the Jaycees and helped on many projects including the Halloween haunted house, Christmas basket food drive and especially Breakfast with Sesame Street characters where he played Oscar the Grouch – the character was not very befitting to such a kind man, but the costume was the only one that fit his tall frame, so children enjoyed meeting the” kind grouch.” Jim helped coach Katie and Jay in basketball and softball and was literally and figuratively their biggest fan as he cheered from the sidelines with a host of Crystal Lake South High School parents at all of Jay and Katie’s games. They traveled with their kids to their tournaments, and he worked with them on the driveway (basketball) and in the backyard (softball) with many bruises to show for it! He was also a member of the Chamber of Commerce and B to B in the Crystal Lake area once he left Northern Trust and joined the business community in Crystal Lake.
He was the most loving dad to Katie and Jay. He showed his love by being there for choir concerts, games, practices, tournaments near and far, staying up late at night to make sure the deadline for papers was met, waiting up (likely dozed off) on the couch for them to come home, or helping to console heartache or losses in games. He exuded love and joy for Caleb, Makena, and Eden. Whether it was their silly little things that reminded him of their parents when they were young, or their own unique way of doing something, he knew his grandbabies and they loved him dearly.
As his faith deepened in the early 90s, Jim became active in the various ministries at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church. He was involved in the Marriage Ministry, started the Welcoming Ministry and the Bereavement Ministry. He and Sandy helped start the Fully Engaged Marriage Preparation program at their church. His pride and joy of his faith was to start the Christian men’s group, TMIY (That Man is You) at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton where he was able to share his love of his faith and be a role model to so many men and families. He and his core team felt the need to further this nationally-based ministry by assisting other local parishes to start their own TMIY group.
For those of you whose lives Jim touched, when you think of Jim, you remember warmth. The kindness in his smile, the strength of his hug, and the warmth of God working through him. We have lost an adoring, devoted husband whose love is eternal. We lost a dad who was so very proud to be a dad, and grandpa/papa. We lost a brother, nephew, son-in-law, brother-in-law, friend, neighbor, core group leader, fellow parishioner, and random acquaintance whom he made feel like a friend. No matter what you called him, husband, dad, in law, brother, grandpa/papa, friend, Big Jim, Tree, Camel, Cliffy, etc., you knew his heart was so full and so giving. Jim was a kind soul who loved God, his family, and his friends deeply. He touched so many in his 68 years. We hope you will keep all those fond memories and stories close to you. As he would always say when he departed, “Go with God.”
A celebration of his life will be held Friday, October 1, 2021, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 1023 McHenry Ave., Crystal Lake, IL 60014. Visitation will be from 9:00am in Seton Hall, followed by a funeral mass at 11:00am. Then a celebration luncheon open to all will be held from 12:00pm until late afternoon in Seton Hall (at the church). We truly want this day to be a day spent celebrating Jim's life, so please join us. Jim's specific request was to have hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza at his funeral luncheon so we will be honoring his request along with salads and desserts provided by the Funeral Ministry. We ask that you let the church office staff know that you will be attending the luncheon to insure we have enough food for everyone (815) 459-3033. Please let them know the total number of your attendees. Also please bring your stories of Jim to the luncheon to share with the family and friends gathered there.
Masks will be required at church regardless of vaccination status.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church or Paradisus Dei-TMIY (That Man is You). For the TMIY donations, please click on donations in Jim’s memory.
To send flowers to James "Jim" F. Christensen's family, please visit our floral store.