Ed and Mary Lee Christensen never had any children.
Yet, it is children who will benefit from the couple’s estate through a new scholarship, the Edmund J. and Mary Lee Christensen Scholarship Fund.
Their estate left $690,000 for scholarships.
“For them to have accumulated that kind of wealth is amazing,” said Steve Hansen, who was their attorney and friend.
Ed died on Jan. 21, 2012. He was 84. Mary Lee, who was stricken with polio around the early 1950s, died on July 3, 1992.
For some time, the couple planned to establish the scholarship fund.
“We worked on it over a period of four or five years, at least,” Hansen said. “We had a lot of help from the Community Foundation. His wife was really the one who set the parameters.”
The scholarships will be awarded to Waupaca High School graduating seniors who are planning to attend an accredited college, university or technical college and are pursuing a career in music, physical therapy or veterinary science.
There is a reason why the couple chose those fields. The Christensens loved dogs and music.
Their home on the Chain O’ Lakes included an old Steinway piano, and during his final days, Ed often listened to old record albums, reminiscing about his wife.
Through the years, the couple had many dogs.
The road on which they lived – Tammy Trail – was named after one of the first dogs the couple had, a German Shepherd named Tammy.
Gene Sorensen knew Ed his entire life and explained why students planning a career in physical therapy will also be considered for the scholarship.
“She (Mary Lee) was primarly confined to a wheelchair from her high school days. Eddie took her all over for therapy,” Sorensen said.
He cared for his wife a long time, and while she needed him, he also needed her, Sorensen said.
Those who knew Ed well called him E.J. or Eddie.
They described him as a character, unique and frugal.
Ed served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and for many years, managed the Holiday Station in Waupaca.
“He wanted kids to put it to good use, to study hard, get their degree,” Hansen said of the scholarship.
The following will be considered in determining the recipients of the scholarship: academic achievement, involvement in extracurricular and community activities, being conscientious and hardworking, potential to be successful in a college, university or technical college setting and financial need.
Each spring, the recipients will be selected by a committee that consists of the president of the Waupaca School Board, treasurer of the Waupaca Area Community Foundation, president of the Waupaca High School Scholarship Foundation and administrator of the school district.
The funds will go into the Waupaca Area Community Foundation and be earmarked for the Waupaca High School Scholarship Foundation.
Jay Krcmar is the treasurer of the Waupaca Area Community Foundation and the president of the Waupaca High Scholarship Foundation.
He said the number of scholarships awarded each year and their amount will be determined by the committee. It will be a renewable scholarship.
Hansen said the committee will have great latitude in terms of how the funds are dispersed. “I know when I talked to Eddie, his idea was to give them (the committee) the most discretion.”
Krcmar said each of the last two years, there were 100 applicants for scholarships. Between 60 and 75 students received scholarships.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.
Others interested in establishing scholarships may contact Krcmar at Farmers State Bank at 715-258-1400 or WHS Principal Rob Becker at 715-258-4131.
District Administrator David Poeschl said on an annual basis, graduating seniors receive more than $700,000 in scholarships. That amount includes local, university and athletic scholarships, he said.