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Hubert E. Chrestenson

1927 - January 2, 2021

Hubert E. ChrestensonHubert E. ChrestensonHubert E. Chrestenson, 93, died Jan. 2, 2021, at home in Sublimity, Oregon. He was born in Grandview, Washington in 1927, and was raised by his loving grandparents Chresten (Chris) and Myrtle Chrestenson.  After finishing high school in 1945, Hubert enlisted in the Navy, served in the Naval Reserves and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander in 1987.  In 1947 Hube married Doris Jean Carrell.  He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Washington State College, and his PhD. in mathematics from the University of  Oregon in 1953.  After one year at Purdue, he taught at Whitman College for three years.

In 1957 Hugh began a 33 year career teaching mathematics at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.  In 1967-68 he taught at the University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana on a Fulbright grant. Doris and Hubert spent a wonderful sabbatical year in London in 1977-78. Besides being a math professor, Hube fished for steelhead in the winters, hiked and camped with Doris and their three children, and loved to pile the family into the car for a Sunday drive. Together with Doris, he built a rustic vacation cabin in the Trask River valley and planted hundreds of trees on the surrounding land. His family treasures the many projects that he produced in his wood shop - toys for the grandchildren, furniture and cedar chests for every branch of the family.

After Hubert retired in 1990, his first project was to build their retirement house in Forest Grove, Oregon.  After the house was finished, he fulfilled a life long dream of learning to fly small aircraft. Their twenty acres of forest land kept him busy planting trees and harvesting firewood for their wood furnace.  Many bottles of his signature beer were crafted in the beer room in the basement.  The Forest Grove Library was delighted to have Hugh sort and move books for their book sales. He and Doris enjoyed the outdoors, hiking and canoeing and took many trips including Viet Nam for Dale and Thuy’s wedding, Europe, the Caribbean, Belize, and Russia.  In 2016 he moved with Doris to Sublimity, Oregon.

His survivors include Doris, his wife of 73 years, his son Dale (Thuy) Chrestenson, and his daughters Susan (Lee) Danielson and Mary (Charles) Chrestenson-Becker. He is also survived by his grandchildren Stephen and Andy Becker, Emily and Paul Danielson, Laura and Terri Chrestenson, Vu Huynh, and great-grandchildren Sophie and Elena Becker, and Duke Lauder.  He is also survived by two brothers, Chris and Ted Thompson, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sister, Sharon McCullough and his brother, Bill Thompson.

Those who wish to honor Hugh’s memory may send a donation to their local food bank. 

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It was my honor to follow Hugh in his position at Reed College, always inspired by the amazing standards of his teaching, kindness, and good cheer.

I have two memories that immediately come to mind from my calculus class with Hugh.  The first is that I soon noticed that he never told a student they were wrong.  Instead, he ran a hand through his hair and said: “Not quite, not quite—let me show you...”. In the middle of winter—our class was at 8:30am—he would always open the windows and say: “fresh air, fresh air—the little gray cells need fresh air.”  A great teacher and a gentle soul.

Hugh was an exceptional professor, and as many have noted, very kind. He was my facultry advisor, and helped me considerably during the worst time of my life, as a sophmore, when my father died. He was also my math professor at Reed College including a class called Topology; he certainly explained things well but also had a deep skill to guide the student to do the explaining. From Hugh I learned the importance of intuition in Mathematics. He will be missed by many!

At Reed I had math 210 in 1966-67 taught by Dr. Chrestenson. I remember his crisp style of presentation, which seemed so essentially mathematical. I extend my condolences to his family.

So sorry to hear... sounds like he had a great life after leaving Reed. He was my favorite math professor. Tough, but great! Math 200, Freshman year. I got a C+. He made us work!!! But we loved him. No grade inflation back then (83-84). 

Hugh was my first teacher at Reed, MATH 200, 8am MTWF.  On the way to his office around 6am he'd stop by the classroom to open the windows, for fresh and cool/cold air.  He was a master teacher, supplementing the textbook with excellent examples and superior presentations, and he kept our attention with just a little additional help of opening more windows.  In my senior year he was my thesis advisor.  He gave me the confidence I needed.  At departmental parties he and Doris modeled a harmonious relationship.  When Steve and I got married, he gave us a wooden fruit bowl that he turned himself; we still have it, use it, and treasure it.  Steve and I have many wonderful memories of visiting Hugh and Doris in Forest Grove and of their visit to us in New Mexico. 

I can’t think of another teacher I’ve had or met who loved their subject matter and the teaching of it as much as he did. Thanks, Hugh, for showing me so early in my freshman year that I had chosen the right college. Hail and farewell!

So very sorry to hear this sad news.  Hugh was so very good to me over the many years we worked together at Reed.  I will always have fond memories of our time together.  I will never forget  the time Hugh came to my home. I had just gone through a painful divorce, followed by a very bad bout with pneumonia.  My doorbell rang, and Hugh was standing on my porch.  He said "I'm just checking on you and thought you might need some help."  He then proceeded to chop and stack firewood for me.  That's the kind of man Hugh was!  I will never, ever forget him -- such a very fine, caring human being.  I will forever miss him. My thoughts are with Susan, Mary, Doris, Dale and Hugh's grandchildren.  He was so very proud of his family.  When he talked about family, he would laugh fondly, often with tears.  Hugh had a wonderful life, and was admired and loved by many.

I came to Reed as a part-time professor in the theatre department and was assigned to a committee Hugh chaired. He was always the perfect gentleman and conducted meetings with both wisdom and humor. When he learned I was also a hiker and camper, he shared tales of some of his favorite places and - do I remember this correctly? - a jar or two of home-bee-made honey. I’m so glad I got to Reed in time to meet the best of the legendary professors whose wisdom and kindness shaped the lives of students and colleagues alike.

I knew Hugh well as a student at Reed. He taught many classes and was my thesis advisor. It saddens me greatly that he has passed. Hugh opened the world of Mathematics to me and saved my academic career! He was kind hearted and generous. He took us steelhead fishing. We drank home brew together. He invited us to his home. Open the windows, we need air!  Fare thee well Hugh!

I began my tenure in the Reed mathematics department shortly after Hugh retired.  I am grateful for how kind and welcoming Hugh and Doris were to me and my family.  Hugh continued to attend our weekly math lunches at the Woodstock Wine & Deli during his retirement, sharing his energy, enthusiasm, and good sense of humor.  Thanks, Hugh and Doris!

Hugh Chrestenson was literally one of the liveliest people I've ever known. As a young math student, I was completely afraid of him, with his 50's crew cut (in the 80's), his very deep voice and his ability to convince me to get to his 8AM class on time. One of my favorite memories is of him at the blackboard revealing the most subtle part of a proof, and jumping from the excitement of letting us in on it. Hugh's door was always open, and he was ready to help any of us clear a barrier to understanding.

Later, when he and Doris moved to Owl Drive, my wife & I visited sometimes, exploring the property, the amazing wood furnace, the brewing room and even the nuts and bolts of his firewood harvesting operation. 

We have such fond memories of outings with Hugh and Doris too. We attended barbershop quartet competitions (who knew?) and Christmas concerts at Pacific University, and were treated to an amazing aerial tour of the Willamette Valley, including Mt. Angel. "It's different with 4 passengers", says Hugh as he stabilizes the plane during takeoff. 

What a privilege it has been to know him! 

Doris, Dale, Susan, Mary, and grandkids, I wish you comfort. 

As a high schooler, I had Hugh for Math 110 in 1987-88, and his energy and the way he communicated the ideas were an inspiration — compounded by other faculty members at Reed.  That inspiration carried with me through my time at Reed as undergrad and as I pursued graduate work and a career as a professor.

Comments from others about open windows and his habit of stroking his flat top (sometimes with yellow chalk on his hands!) bring back good memories.

Thanks, Hugh!