Chester J. (Jay) Christensen

Chester J (Jay) Christensen was born in Richfield, Utah.  He was the fifth of nine children.  He worked on farms; tending cattle, thinning and weeding sugar beets, gathering hay, and other duties.  His family raised much of their own food, including rabbits, chickens and pigs.  He grew up in Richfield and graduated from Richfield High School in 1941.  He was active in sports, including playing basketball and football for the Richfield Wildcats.  He was the captain of the basketball team.  During his senior year, Richfield played in the State Championship football game against Morgan High, coming in a close second.

Jay made a brief appearance at Weber State University.  In December, 1942, he received a notice that he had been chosen by his friends and neighbors to represent them in the United States Army.  He was inducted in January, 1943 and went to Camp Bowie, TX for his basic training.  From there, he went to Camp Hood (currently Fort Hood) for additional training.  He was attached to the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion and sent to Camp Claiborne, LA and Camp Myles in Taunton, MA before deploying to England.

They set sail from Boston on the Liberty Ship Porpoise.  The galley smelled so bad that he lived on Hershey bars and didn’t set foot in the galley for the next 10 days while crossing the Atlantic.  Everyone on board was seasick and vomiting throughout the voyage.  They remained in England for about five months.  They crossed the English Channel in June, 1944, and landed on Omaha Beach several days after the D-Day invasion began.  They fought their way into France.  They were involved in the capture of St. Lo as part of the 30th Infantry Division.

In early July, the 823rd was part of Operation Cobra, near St. Lo.  The Americans launched an offensive against the Germans.  The Germans launched counter-attacks, but were beaten back.  On the night of August 6, 1944, the 823rd moved into St. Bartholomy.  The following morning, the Germans began attacking around 0200 hours.  As the battle continued, and the casualties mounted, the 823rd was able to destroy a large number of German tanks and trucks.  Unfortunately, the Germans were able to overrun the American’s position.  Jay was commanding one of the anti-tank guns.  As they were taking wounded soldiers to an aid station, he turned around and stared down the barrel of a German tank.  The German tank commander told Jay and the soldiers with him, “For you, the war is over.  I will see you in Philly after the war.”

Jay and the other POW’s were taken to a German prison camp.  While en route, the convoy they were in was strafed by British aircraft and a number of Allied prisoners were killed and wounded, along with several German soldiers.  The POW’s were moved from camp to camp in box cars for a few weeks.  They finally ended up at Stallag XII D, where they remained for several months.

In February, 1945, Russian soldiers were approaching and the German guards deserted their posts.  The POW’s were told to break into small groups and make their own way to the east.  They walked through Poland and Ukraine until they were able to board a train, which took them to Odessa, Ukraine.  From there, they got onto a British ship, which took them to Port Said, Egypt.  There, they were finally able to take a shower, and get clean uniforms.  By this time, it was early March, 1945.  They had been wearing the same clothing since August, 1944.  Their socks were just rings around their ankles.   They were also finally able to have a hot meal with biscuits, “Oh Happy Day!”

Jay and the other soldiers took a ship back to the United States and processed through.  In November, 1945, at Camp Gruber, OK, Jay was discharged from the United States Army.  He was able to return to Utah.

Jay went to work for Telluride Power in Richfield, UT as a lineman.  He often went to a local diner with his buddies.  He caught the attention of a waitress there, Colleen Williams.  She told one of the other employees that she “really hated those guys…..especially that one” and pointed at Jay.  They were an unruly bunch.  The older employee told Colleen that she’d “better watch out, you’ll end up marrying that guy.”  As time went on, she hated him less and less.  On June 21, 1949, Jay and Colleen were married in Kanab, UT.  Jay has said that Colleen was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Jay worked for the power company until 1952.  When some co-workers were killed in an electrical accident, Jay went to work for the telephone company.  He worked there until retiring in 1983.

Jay and Colleen lived in Richfield and surrounding areas until 1969, when they moved to Spanish Fork.  They have two sons and two daughters.  They have been blessed with 12 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.  Jay lost his best friend and wife, Colleen, on December 14, 2006.  He misses her every day and cherishes the time they had together.

When he’s able to, Jay’s favorite pastimes are camping, hunting, fishing, woodworking, “solving the world’s problems” with his buddy Ray, and spending time with his family.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. at the Spanish Fork 6th Ward, 585 N. Main Street, Spanish Fork, Utah.  Family and friends may visit on Friday evening, January 12, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Walker Funeral Home, 187 S. Main Street, Spanish Fork, and on Saturday morning at the church from 10:00-10:45 a.m. prior to services. Interment will be at the Spanish Fork City Cemetery with full military honors.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to:  www.utahhonorflight.org

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2 Memories

  1. Jay was a very good neighbor and friend to my parents, Marion and Nate Hales. He shared produce from his garden, fish, from fishing trips, and was always on hand to help repair something that was broken. Colleen was Marion’s best friend as well. Colleen and Marion spent many shopping trips together as well as time sitting on the front porch just visiting. Jay was indeed a favorite neighbor and friend at the Hales’ home. Even after my parents, Marion and Nate, pass on, Jay continued to be a good neighbor and friend to Nancy, my sister. I send my love and condolences to the family at this time. Charles N. Hales, Newton, Utah

  2. To Jay’s Family;
    Thank you so much for sharing, he and Brett with Utah Honor Flight during Jay’s Honor Flight to Washington DC. I was lucky enough to be one of the flight crew when they traveled to see Jay’s memorials. Jay and I hit it off immediately, I loved his smile and enthusiasm about the trip. May he rest in peace and know his service to our country was appreciated by the entire nation. Thanks for touching my life Jay. RIP Hero.