Milford P. Christenson, founder of Christenson Chevrolet, died Monday at the age of 96.
Rick Ryfa, president of the Griffith Town Council, said he confirmed Christenson's passing with White Funeral Home in Griffith.
"Milford was born and raised in Griffith," Ryfa said Monday. "Griffith is proud that Milford called it home his whole life."
A 2015 Times profile on Christenson reported that into his 90s he went to work daily at the dealership he opened in 1951.
As a child growing up in Griffith, he worked for family businesses, which included a hardware store, a furniture store and a construction firm.
“Our family believes in education,” he said in 2015. “We don’t care where you go. Just get your education.”
He enrolled at Indiana University in Bloomington in the fall of 1940.
“My final semester, I was drafted into the U.S. Army,” Christenson recalled. “I served 3-1/2 years in the 87th Infantry as a radio and communications man.”
In July 1944, he began his military service in Europe, escaping death three times as his unit fought during the Battle of the Bulge during December 1944 and January 1945.
He completed his bachelor's degree in business administration at IU Bloomington following his discharge.
Christenson was a member of IU's Alumni Association and was a member of its Varsity Club Board. His dealership supplied the university's athletic department with an automobile annually.
After graduating from IU, he returned to Griffith and took a prominent role in the family businesses. In 1951, he and his family bought a local Chevrolet dealership and ran it in downtown Griffith until 1963.
The dealership grew, and the Chevrolet Motor Division required the business to relocate to larger quarters, he said.
“We purchased a cornfield out in the country on Route 41 in Highland and built a 40,000-square-foot building on 6 acres of land,” he said of the current Christenson Chevrolet dealership.
In 2001, Christenson Chevrolet was named Indiana Dealer of The Year by Time Magazine.
In 2012, he was inducted into the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame.
For 25 years, he served on the volunteer Griffith Fire Department and was a Griffith School Board member from 1965 to 1980.
He was a member of the Griffith Rotary Club, which in 2015 he had a record of perfect attendance for more than 47 years, and attended Rotary Club meetings in 46 countries around the world.
He was also known for his generosity.
"I give away $50,000 to $100,000 a year," Christenson said in a 2012 interview with The Times around the time he was set to be inducted into the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame
For years, Christenson presented a check for $5,000 to Campagna Academy on the first Monday of December.
“That’s so they can have a Christmas party and a Christmas gift for each one of the residents,” he said in 2015. “We’ve gotten letters over the years for the children. That means the world to us.”
He was married to Margaret and the couple had two children.