Pia Christensen, AHCJ’s longtime website editor, died May 4, 2021, from cancer at her home in Loomis, Calif. She served as managing editor/online services for the past 15 years and as part of the Missouri School of Journalism staff for the past 20 years. You are welcome to share your own memories here about how Pia touched your own life.
Pia Christensen introduces Ernie to her cousin’s child (2016).
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The first time I met Pia was shortly after she joined AHCJ, at our conference in LA. She was so enthusiastic about the new role, so smart and so warm and easy to talk to. And her enthusiasm only grew as time went on.
I loved hearing about Ernie too!
I will remember Pia for her devotion to her beautiful horse, Ernie and to her wonderful family and friends. There was also her love of journalism. She was a calm and discerning editor for us topic leaders and a delight to visit with in person during our annual conferences. It is hard to believe she is gone.
Pia thought it was hilarious that I grew up in Brooklyn, rode horses, owned an Eskimo Joe’s t-shirt, and was familiar with finer points of hoof-picking. It amazed me that she remembered these details throughout the years of our friendship, which began just after the 2006 AHCJ conference in Houston. She was relatively new to the AHCJ team but still managed to exude confidence, never failing to reassure even the most unsteady foals of our worthiness to belong. Her kindness and intellect - and that grin! - were always on display and she did more than her job required. Always above and beyond, and always with a smile. Pia was a special person, not only because she herself had an outsized capacity for compassion, but because she made you feel special, just the way she remembered the little details. It’s why she will be sorely missed by all the creatures who were lucky enough to be in her life. Peace, Pia. ♥️
I loved the way that Pia was so inclusive, spreading around the attention to and highlighting the work of so many different members.
She also really *got* what we needed: when asking people to write a "how I did that," she always made sure that the freelancers who did those got paid; she made sure we got a mental break at conferences (I'm remembering the miniature burro in Phoenix), and was unfailingly patient when we asked to be directed, yet again, to that one remote conference room.
I ran into Pia in the bar late one evening at the Phoenix conference. We had a drink together and I was able to just spend some time, talking about non-journalism stuff. I heard about horses and her family and just shot the breeze for an hour or so. She was so easy to connect with. That open personality was part of how she always made us feel connected to the organization, helping me feel that AHCJ is not just a faceless entity, but consists of staff who really are interested in how we're all doing.
She'll be so missed.
Pia was always a breath of fresh air, always willing to help newbies navigate AHCJ and such a kind and beautiful spark of light. She will be deeply missed.
Looking over the dozens of emails Pia and I exchanged over the years, I am struck by her swift attention to the countless niggling details that make the AHCJ's website an incomparable resource. But those messages don't capture the heart of her personality -- her openness and curiosity about others. She was cherished friend and colleague whom I will greatly miss.
Navigating the conference for the first time each year, searching for the registration desk, coming around a hallway corner or down an escalator, when suddenly, like a lighthouse beam Pia's smile and exuberance came into view.
We were welcomed.
I will remember and cherish Pia's warmth.
P.S. She was damned good at her job.
Pia was among the first to welcome me to AHCJ and introduce me to many members who have since become friends. I couldn't have been successful as the aging topic editor without her unwavering support, expert guidance and common sense. She was not just a colleague and managing editor, she was also a friend, who delighted in hearing about my grandkids and sharing her adventures with Ernie. I'll miss her ready smile, calm leadership, and a hundred other things that made Pia Pia. Deepest condolences to her family, and to Tim.
I was fortunate to have Pia as my editor when I was medical studies topic leader for AHCJ. She was unfailingly kind and encouraging and let many a deadline slip a few days so I could juggle freelance projects.
I loved running into her at AHCJ's annual conferences. I knew we were in good hands when I would see her filming sessions or staffing the registration desk. Pia was one of those rare people who is quietly excellent and extraordinarily dependable. Health journalism has suffered a big loss.
When she was first diagnosed last year, she told me that things had never been better in her life. She was living near family, had a tribe of great friends, a dependable trail horse, and a wonderful boyfriend. She faced her cancer diagnosis with optimism and hope for holding on to that life.
I'm thinking of her friends and family as they mourn her passing. May happy memories of her and her love for you bring comfort.
Pia welcomed me to my first health journalism conference, around 2010. She was warm and funny and smart and helpful. After her diagnosis, we reconnected in a more personal way. I admired her outlook, and will always remember her fondly.
My thoughts go out to Pia's loved ones and family.
May 14, 2021 @ 8:32 AM
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Connie & Pat Toops
We lived on Horn Island, a wilderness barrier island that was part of Gulf Islands National Seashore while Carl Christensen served as chief ranger there. We have fond memories of Carl, Sue, and Pia coming occasionally to visit us, and they also graciously hosted us when we were in Pensacola. Pia was always a delightful child -- curious, courteous, and fun-loving. This photo captures her delight at being able to explore the wonders of nature in this lovely park.
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May 5, 2021 @ 11:03 AM
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May 5, 2021 @ 11:03 AM
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May 5, 2021 @ 11:02 AM