Principal, 51, who took his life at Disneyland after posting a suicide note blaming his wife for getting him arrested was the son of legendary Disney musical director
- Chris Christensen, 51, jumped to his death from a parking lot at Disneyland on Saturday evening, leaving a suicide note blaming his wife
- Christensen, the principal of Newland Elementary School in Huntington Beach, California, was due in court on Monday on charges of child endangerment
- In his Facebook post, he wrote that his wife Marlena called the police during a row, which led to the allegations and his suspension from the job he loved
- Christensen, who for over 40 years played the cello in his string group Seaside Strings, was the son of a legendary Disney musical director
A California elementary school principal who jumped to his death from a Disneyland parking lot days before he was due in court on child endangerment charges was the son of a legendary Disney music director, it has emerged.
Chris Christensen, 51, took his own life on Saturday around 9pm, during the Christmas lighting ceremony at the Anaheim theme park – a ceremony reportedly attended by Disney’s new CEO, Bob Iger.
Christensen was due in court on Monday on child endangerment charges after his wife Marlena called the police during a heated argument in front of her two young daughters, Katelynn and Kara.
In a Facebook suicide note, Christensen said he was ending his life because he feared he was about to lose his job, having been suspended as principal of Newland Elementary School when the charges were filed.
Christensen’s father Jim, who died in 2020 aged 84, was music director for Disneyland and Walt Disney World since the 1960s – remembered fondly as ‘a musical legend in the universe of Walt Disney World.’
Chris posted a photo of his father at a family gathering in November 2019, five months before his death.
‘This was my dad’s first day at home since 8/15,’ he wrote.
‘He enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner sitting at the head of ‘HIS’ table.
‘So glad we made this happen for him.’
Jim Christensen, who met his wife Karen at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, taught music in Madison and New York.
Jim became director of the UW Marching Band, and was a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, playing the trombone – Karen Christensen played the flute and piccolo.
He directed the UW Marching Band at the 1963 and 1968 Rose Bowl, and was hired by Disney ahead of the 1971 opening of Disney World, in Florida.
The Christensen family – Jim and Karen, plus their three sons Kent, Timothy, and Brad – moved from Wisconsin to California in 1968. Chris was born in 1971.
Jim Christensen went on to compose music for the Main Street Electrical Parade, and numerous other Disney attractions – he has 250 published works to his name.
He was tasked with auditioning and conducting an All-American College Orchestra at Disney World every summer for 10 years, and in 2019, he was honored at their reunion in Orlando.
Two of the Christensen sons auditioned and had participated in the summer orchestras in 1986 and 1992.
Peter Wilson, violinist and the String Section Commander for ‘The President’s Own’ U.S. Marine Band, served as concertmaster of the Walt Disney World All American College Orchestra under Jim Christensen in 1990.
Wilson described him as ‘a musical legend in the universe of Walt Disney World’.
‘Jim’s arrangements can still be heard at theme parks around the world in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., including all Disney parks, Knott’s Berry Farm, Canada’s Wonderland, Hershey Park, Lotte World (Korea), Everland, and Movie World in Germany,’ Wilson said.
‘I will be forever grateful to Jim for setting such a wonderful example through his never-ending kindness and generosity. His abundant energy on the podium and his excitement about music, performing, and teaching were contagious. He was the perfect man for the job.
‘Jim touched so many lives, and even for those who didn’t pursue music professionally beyond that orchestra, his positive impact on all of us during those summers will remain forever.
‘He shaped who we are today, and his love of life and commitment to young artists are his legacy.’
Three of Jim Christensen’s four sons were musical.
The oldest Kent, who died before his father, was a drummer and gymnastics teacher.
Timothy Christensen performs at La Mirada Theater and the Laguna Arts Festival, according to Jim’s obituary.
Chris owned Seaside Strings in Huntington Beach, a band which provides string ensembles for weddings and other events. He performed cello.
The fourth son, Brad, was described as someone who ‘loves food and people and works locally.
Chris’ wife Marlena is yet to comment on her husband’s untimely death or his accusatory Facebook post.
In the final post, he blamed her for ‘letting her anger get the best of her’, then calling the police and landing him in jail, which prompted him to be put on administrative leave from his job
In a lengthy Facebook note, he wrote: ‘I think it is safe to say that Marlena truly regrets making that call, because the events of that night have completely unraveled both of our lives.’
He continued: ‘I need you all to know that a gentle, kind, loving and sincerely good man has been destroyed by one unfortunate night.’
Christensen also made a veiled jab at his wife, reiterating that ‘people need to start treating each other better’.
He wrote that he would use her ‘anger’ as a means to show his friends how rage can ‘really have extremely damaging effects on a person’s life.’
The principal was ‘on the brink’ of losing his job because of the charges – which he cited as one reason for taking his own life.
Christensen wrote on Facebook: ‘I hate when people leave this Earth with so many unanswered questions. So, I hope this provides some insight and perspective.’
He said he had never hurt his wife or their daughters during the argument, but that the ‘extremely flawed’ legal system would end up putting away an ‘innocent man.’
‘Unfortunately, two weeks ago she and I got into a heated argument at home in front of the girls. Tempers were flared and strong words were exchanged between us,’ the man told his friends.
‘However, never in this exchange did I hit, slap, or hurt Marlena in any manner. Nor did I ever touch the girls (I never have and never will). I love the girls like my own and they know that, as does everyone else who truly knows me.
‘I am on the brink of losing my job, as I am out on administrative leave until my case is “resolved.”
‘So, here I am…writing my final FB post to all of you. I need you all to know that a gentle, kind, loving and sincerely good man has been destroyed by one unfortunate night.
‘It really is unfortunate! This is NOT me! This is NOT something that I ever thought would happen to me,’ he continued.
Christensen thanked his coworkers, friends, and families for his time with the district and said he loved what he did for 20-plus years.
‘I have truly loved educating and leading thousands of students and families as a principal in FVSD for the past 21+ years,’ he said.
‘I have made so many wonderful connections with families over the years and those who know me closely know how much I cared for my students, staff and families.’
Christensen, according to his post, also spent the day ‘reaching out to those closest’ to him before the fateful incident.
He added: ‘This is not an ideal way to go out, but at least I get a chance to say some final words to those who I love and adore.
‘Please, please, please be kind to one another! Treat each other with kindness and grace.
‘There is too much anger in the world and people need to start treating each other better. What I’ve shared with you above is a prime example of how “anger” can really have long-lasting and extremely damaging effects on a person’s life.’
Earlier in the post, Christensen asked his friends and followers to: ‘Please remember me for all the good I brought to the world of education.’
The Fountain Valley School District, where Christensen worked, confirmed his death in a statement sent to families.
‘Mr. Christensen has been a respected leader in FVSD for over 20 years,’ the statement read.
‘His contributions and connections to this community are immeasurable. He was a father, husband, brother, and friend to so many. His passing leaves us devastated and heartbroken.’
Grief counselors are being made available to students and staff, according to the district.