(April 2, 1941 - December 26, 2012)
Christiansen, Darwin "Dar" of Flushing and Florida, age 71, died Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at his home in Florida. Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Saturday, December 29, 2012 at Flint Central Church of the Nazarene. Rev. Terry Bate will officiate. Cremation will follow the funeral services. Visitation will be 11 a.m. until the time of the service at 2 p.m. Saturday at the church. If desired, memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association or Flushing Christian Outreach Center.
Darwin was born in Flint, Michigan on April 2, 1941, the son of Leo and Margaret (Henry) Christiansen. He married Patricia Shiflett on April 9, 1960 in Flint. Dar was a teacher, counselor, and coach for over 40 years. He was inducted into the Michigan Coaches Hall of Fame in 1999 and in 2000 inducted into Albion College Sports Hall of Fame. Dar was a member of Michigan Sports Sages. He officiated high school basketball for over 30 years and loved watching his grandchildren play sports. He enjoyed golf, fishing and hunting. Dar was a charter member of Flushing Community Church of the Nazarene.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Pat; children, Joe and wife Lesley Christiansen, Anne and husband Kevin Vince, Carrie Christiansen, Jeff and wife Julie Christiansen; grandchildren, Diane, Julie, Tyler, Zack, Ally, Ryan, Jenna, Max, Jake, Jordan, Reilly, Matison, Joe, James, Janey; sister, Marilyn and husband Paul Renshaw and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his son, Todd and granddaughter, Colby.
Coach Dar Christiansen will be remembered for changing the game of football in the Flint area.
Christiansen, 71, died Wednesday, Dec. 26, at his home in Florida.
He had his initial impact on the football field as a player, serving as quarterback at Flushing High School in the late 1950s and running back at Albion College after graduation.
At Albion, Christiansen was a three-year varsity starter and earned Most Improved Player in 1961 and was the team's MVP in 1962.
Despite his accomplishments as a player, Christiansen's biggest impact on the game of football came from the sidelines he ran up and down for so many years. After a successful stint coaching at his alma mater, Flushing, Christiansen took over at Flint Southwestern, compiling a 56-8 record and recording back-to-back 9-0 regular seasons.
In 1999, Christiansen was inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame for his success as a coach, which included the best winning percentage (.875) of any football coach in Flint history. Christiansen was also inducted into the Michigan High School Football Association Coaches Hall of Fame the same year and in 2000 was inducted into the Albion College Sports Hall of Fame.
"There was just some phenomenal talent in the city during that era, and a lot of it was at Southwestern with the kids that were playing for Dar on those great teams," said Genesee County Circuit Judge Duncan Beagle, a board member of the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame. "(Christiansen) was an incredible offensive mind. We talk about the spread offense now, but he took passing to a new level during the time he was at Southwestern because he brought it into the high school game in a way it wasn't before."
In the early 1960s, Christiansen was an assistant coach at Flint Central under Bob Leach and Joe Dowdy. Finally, in 1967, Christiansen earned the head coach position at Flushing, inheriting a team with six-straight losing seasons. Over four years, Christiansen led the Raiders to a 22-11-3 record.
Christiansen was named the head coach at Southwestern in 1971 and coached for seven seasons, never losing a City Series game while building a 21-0 record against city foes. As the Southwestern coach, he developed players such as Rick Leach, an All-American quarterback at the University of Michigan, and Ricky Patton, Booker Moore and Reggie Williams, who all went on to play in the NFL.
In 1976, the Colts went undefeated and were ranked No. 1 in Class A from the beginning of the season to the end. However, Midland Dow was selected for the postseason. The 1977 season also went undefeated, but lost in the first game of the playoffs.
The 1976 Southwestern football team was also inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
"The best condition I was ever in was with Dar, because he taught us how to work out and prepare ourselves to be successful," said Brian Carpenter, who played at Southwestern from 1976-1978 and also at Michigan and in the NFL. "There was a long run where nobody beat us in the city and my two years on varsity we were 18-1. We were undersized, but we were the No. 1 team in the state for two years because of how he prepared us.
"The working out and expectations he put on us, of showing up every day and putting in hard work, he changed the mindset of Flint football and everybody started doing it, because we were doing it and winning."
During all his years at Southwestern, Christiansen became known for his team's potent passing attack, a rarity in the game of football in the 1970s. Marv Rettenmund, who was an assistant for Christiansen at Southwestern and took over as head coach in 1982, said Christiansen could have been successful even at the college level with his game plan.
"Dar was a fantastic high school football coach and probably could have been very successful at the college level as well, because he had such a strong understanding for the game," Rettenmund said. "At that time, we had a real good passing attack, which nobody else really had. We were blessed with some outstanding athletes and I think Dar was very instrumental in developing a passing attack and using our players' skills and that gave us a huge advantage over other teams in the area.
"We had a great staff that was together for a long time at Southwestern and Dar was the head guy there. I think he's one of the city's best coaches ever."
Christiansen's son, Todd Christiansen, died in September at the age of 48. Todd Christiansen played football at Flint Central until his graduation in 1982 and went on to play at Central Michigan University.