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Calvin Christensen, 1927-2011: Former UT, NBA player also success as salesman

Calvin Christensen, a salesman and a former professional basketball player who got his start at Macomber High School and played for the University of Toledo and in the NBA, died Aug. 31 at his home in Waterville. He was 84.

Mr. Christensen died of congestive heart failure, his wife, Sharon, said.

Mr. Christensen started playing basketball during his junior year at Macomber and, his senior year, was named to the All-City Team.

He graduated from high school in 1945 and soon after was drafted by the Army.

The day he officially went into the service, World War II ended, Mrs. Christensen said.

After a year in the military, Mr. Christensen was discharged and enrolled at UT, then known as Toledo University, in 1947 to study education.

While at school, Mr. Christensen, a center, was consistently a top performer. In 1948, according to Blade archives, Mr. Christensen, who was 6 feet, 5 inches tall, was the leading scorer for the team.

The Blade reported: "Cal is rapidly turning into a great basketball player with fine professional prospects."

In 1950, the National Inter Collegiate Athletic Bureau tabulated statistics for college basketball teams and noted that Mr. Christensen led the pack with 44 free throws and 53 field goals for 150 points, according to Blade archives.

When Mr. Christensen was drafted in 1950 by the Tri-City Blackhawks -- which represented Moline, Ill.; Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport, Iowa -- he was the team's No. 4 choice.

During his five years in the NBA, Mr. Christensen played for the Blackhawks, the Milwaukee Hawks, and the Rochester Royals. On Oct. 31, 1954, he made the game-winning three free throws that secured the Royals a 98-95 win over the Boston Celtics in a nationally televised season opener.

After leaving basketball in 1955, Mr. Christensen started what would become a 25-year career at Johns-Manville.

In 1959, during his first years with the company, after a lunch break with co-workers, Mr. Christensen went into a local pharmacy and met the woman who would become his wife, who worked as a pharmacist.

"I didn't realize he was a ball player," Mrs. Christensen said. "I didn't know anything about his past, the NBA, or anything like that."

The two started dating and, on March 12, 1960, they married at First Presbyterian Church in Defiance. The couple had three children.

Mr. Christensen was born in Toledo on June 6, 1927, to Lawrence and Tinnie Christensen. His first job as a boy was delivering newspapers for The Blade.

At Johns-Manville, Mr. Christensen was a salesman, selling water and sewer pipes, Mrs. Christensen said. When he turned 55, the company had Mr. Christensen -- and others the same age -- retire.

Not wanting to leave Toledo, he spent two years waiting for a job and, when a California company bought the Johns-Manville division he worked for, he started back at work, doing the exact same job for JM Manufacturing. He worked there until he retired at 64.

Mr. Christensen, who was inducted into the UT Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, never spoke much about his time as a professional basketball player, Mrs. Christensen said. Not with her, anyway. He and his old buddies, though, would reminisce about the old days playing ball.

His friends described him as a "man's man," Mrs. Christensen said.

Surviving are his wife, Sharon; son, Lars; daughters, Cassandra Morris and Lynette Adams; brother, Donald; seven grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday at the Peinert Funeral Home, Waterville, with services immediately afterward.

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