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‘One of a kind’: Mac ‘Mr. Mac’ Christensen dies at age 85

Mac Christensen, president of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, talks to members of the media during a press conference at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 19, 2012. Christensen, founder of the clothing retailer Mr. Mac, died at age 85.
Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Mac “Mr. Mac” Christensen dressed more Latter-day Saint missionaries than he, or likely anyone else, will ever account for and would go on to serve a mission in Washington, D.C., and lead the internationally renowned Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square for over a decade during which the group earned two Grammy nominations and the prestigious National Medal of Arts.

Christensen died on Friday at the age of 85.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert released a statement following news of Christensen’s passing, saying the entrepreneur was “a living legend here in Utah and beyond.”

Christensen was the founder of the Beehive State-based clothing retailer Mr. Mac and served as president of the choir from 2000 to 2012.

Former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s foundation also tweeted Saturday about Christensen’s passing.

In addition, Herbert’s statement said that Christensen “was one of a kind and will be sorely missed.”

“Mac Christensen was a true gentleman and a successful entrepreneur. He loved and cared about everyone and everyone loved him in return. Everyone was his friend. ... He cared about how you looked on the outside — but more importantly he cared about how you looked on the inside. He was known for his kindness, his service and his charitable giving,” the statement also read.

Current Tabernacle Choir President Ron Jarrett, who worked with Christensen during has time heading the group, said the man left behind an “enduring legacy of excellence.”

“I was privileged to serve as an assistant to President Mac during three of his 12 years of untiring service from 2000 to 2012,” Jarett said in a statement. “He left an enduring legacy of excellence for The Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra and Bells at Temple Square.

“During his tenure, the choir received the prestigious National Medal of Arts, two Grammy nominations, and Music & the Spoken Word was inducted into the National Association Broadcasting Hall of Fame. His favorite song was ‘God Be with You Till We Meet Again’ because it meant that another broadcast, concert or tour had come to a meaningful end. Those words have never rung truer than today as we mourn the loss of our dear friend and colleague.

“May these beautiful lyrics be our prayer of comfort for the Christensen family at this tender time.”

Christensen was born in Salina, Utah, on May 11, 1934, and raised in Sanpete County, the oldest of five children. He married Joan Graham on June 23, 1953.

In a 2011 Deseret News profile, Christensen recounted how he had come to Salt Lake City as a then-Snow College student, hoping to earn some tuition money over the summer as a laborer at the Kennecott Copper Mine. Unfortunately, his hoped-for employment was sidelined by a labor strike and Christensen, instead, ended up as the “tie guy” at downtown department store ZCMI.

He would quickly rise through the ranks, eventually taking charge of the store’s mens and boys division.

At ZCMI he said he met the leading manufacturers, studied the top salesmen and learned how to treat customers.

”They paid me, but I should have been paying them,” Christensen said. “I could have never received an education like I got there.”

Ten years later, armed with his ZCMI degree, Christensen and his wife, Joan, sold their house and with the resulting $20,000 bankroll, they opened a store called “Mac’s Clothes Tree” in downtown Bountiful.

Business was slow at first, so Christensen drove up and down the Wasatch Front, selling suits of of the back of a van. But that all would soon change.

In 1968, with the business mushrooming, Mac bought a clothes store in an Idaho Falls mall called “Mr. Mac” from a man named Macintosh.

He decided a name change was in order.

Asked at the time of the profile to guess how many missionaries Mr. Mac has sent to the four corners of the Earth, Christensen was genuinely stumped for a number. He’s never kept track.

Finally he answered, “All the good ones.”

Christensen stepped away from the business in 1997, when he and Joan accepted a mission call to serve as directors of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center and started a process that eventually resulted in the sale of the Mr. Mac stores to his four sons — Scott, Stan, Spencer and Stuart — and Steve Winn. At the time of his death, nine stores in Utah and one in Arizona bear the “Mr. Mac” name.

Christensen is survived by his wife, seven children, 39 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his oldest son, Steve.

A public viewing will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20, at Russon Mortuary, 295 N. Main, Bountiful. Funeral services will be held at noon on Monday, Oct. 21, at the Bountiful Central Stake Center, 640 S. 750 East, with a private family viewing from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. prior to services.

Correction: An earlier version misidentified Steve Winn as a son-in-law of Mac Christensen. Also, the name of the first store was “Mac’s Clothes Tree” not “Mac’s Clothes Closet” as originally reported.