Longtime Duncan Aviation Employee Darlene Christensen Passes Away
June 21, 2004
LINCOLN, NEB. — Duncan Aviation regrets to announce that Darlene Christensen, a Duncan Aviation employee since its founding, has passed away after battling cancer for several years.
Christensen died Thursday, June 17, in Lincoln, Nebraska. She continued to work until this April handling charter scheduling and dispatching. She leaves behind her husband, Jack, four brothers, five sisters-in-law, several nieces and nephews and a multitude of friends.
A memorial service celebrating Christensen’s life will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 25, at the Duncan Aviation Flight Department Hangar at the Lincoln, Nebraska, facility.
“Darlene played a huge role in the success of Duncan Aviation,” commented Duncan Aviation Chairman J. Robert Duncan. “She helped my father launch the company and has exemplified the values and enthusiasm that are inherent in our workforce. In addition, she was a wonderful person and a mainstay in my life since I was young. She will be greatly missed by our employees, our customers and our family.”
Christensen’s background at Duncan Aviation is integrated deep in the company’s history. She began working for Donald Duncan in 1954 at the Duncan Motors automobile dealership in Clarinda, Iowa. She began her career as a “jack of all trades,’ handling payroll, parts and customer service.
In 1956, Duncan partnered with Bob Graf to begin selling Beechcraft Bonanzas out of Omaha, Nebraska. Each day began with a commute (via Beechraft) to Omaha. As you can imagine, Christensen’s days were not nine-to-five as she became Duncan’s irreplaceable assistant and an office “manager” for the growing business. She even learned to fly and soloed in the company’s 1941 Piper J-3 Cub.
In the late 1950s, Duncan purchased Graf’s share of the business and relocated to a much larger building in Omaha to focus more on Beechjet maintenance. At this point, Duncan, his family, and Christensen moved to Omaha and ended their long daily commute.
In 1963, Duncan started the Lincoln operation at its current location. 1963 brought an even bigger personal change for Christensen. She married Jack Christensen, an employee at the Duncan Aviation-Omaha location.
In 1964, the Learjet was announced. This was of great interest to Duncan. And even though Christensen had faith in Duncan, she always said she had to question if a client would pay half a million dollars for a plane. They did and Christensen was involved in nearly all of Duncan Aviation’s more than 3,000 aircraft transactions over the years. She developed a personal friendship with Bill Lear; she even had an eight-track player installed in her Pontiac convertible by Lear himself!
As the years passed, the focus of Duncan Aviation changed from aircraft sales to include the maintenance and continued nose-to-tail support of the Learjet. As this change occurred, Robert Duncan entered the business picture. Christensen used to say that Donald Duncan was a born salesman and like most salespeople, he disliked the day-to-day tasks that come with a business. Robert Duncan became his father’s perfect match as he assumed the daily administrative tasks with great success, she observed.
So where was Christensen through these successes? She was working day-to-day alongside both Donald and Robert Duncan. Her “from the ground up” knowledge of the business and the family atmosphere of the Duncan Aviation business made her an integral part of its success. “Family” is the word Christensen used in an employee newsletter published in 2002 to describe the work atmosphere she helped develop and sustain for 50+ years. As the matriarch in that family, the employees of Duncan Aviation will miss her very much.
Duncan Aviation is an aircraft service provider with 1,800 employees supporting the aviation needs of government and business operators and other service providers. These services include airframe, engine, avionics installations, interior and paint completions/modifications, avionics/instrument and accessory/propeller repair/overhaul and parts support. Complete service facilities are located in Lincoln, Neb., and Battle Creek, Mich. Additional locations include 21 satellite avionics facilities located throughout the United States, 20 government C-23 contract locations, a line service/regional support operation in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Lincoln-based Parts Support Services, a division that sells and consigns general aviation parts to aircraft operators and service organizations worldwide.
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