Christen earns lifetime member award
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Christen earns lifetime member award
In life, many of us look at things as either possible or impossible. During his life as a weldor and blacksmith, Dave Christen has learned to see beyond that.
“The impossible just takes a little longer,” said Dave with a smile, quoting a time-honored adage of the blacksmith profession.
With an outlook like that, it is no wonder that Christen was selected this past June to receive the Lifetime Member award from the Iowa Blacksmiths and Weldors Association (IBWA). The award is given each year to a member of the IBWA based on outstanding service and contribution to the association.
“I had no idea that anyone had even nominated me, and when I discovered that I had been selected, I was almost speechless,” recounted the Wadena resident.
Christen has been a member of IBWA for 35 years. In that time he has served as president twice and director three times, in addition to faithfully attending meetings and activities of the organization. He is also member of the National Blacksmith and Weldors Association, having served as the Iowa representative and president of that organization as well.
“If not for IBWA, I would have been out of business 30 years ago. Being a member has given me the chance to do a lot of learning, which has helped me to be able to offer services that people want or need,” explained Christen.
Christen is a 1960 graduate of Valley High School, which he began attending as a sophomore when local schools first consolidated. He is grateful for the agricultural and shop programs that he was able to take while there, and is a strong advocate of having vocational and technical programs in the public schools. He especially remembers Ross James, his agricultural education instructor, and Leon Hanson, the shop teacher, and the difference they made in his life.
“Everybody has their talents, and they are all different. I think it is important that we have an option for students in school who may not be the best at ‘pushing a pencil,’ but still have a lot of talent in other areas,” expounded the longtime owner of D.C. Welding in Wadena.
Christen has a variety of skills and experience to draw on. He remembers wanting to build and fix things by the age of 8. He was always watching, asking questions, and gaining experience. After Hanson and James helped him sharpen his skills in some of his high school classes, he spent some time in South Dakota working as a gunsmith. After that he enlisted in the Army, where he learned small-arms repair. He was assigned to Fort Carson, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Fort Hood, and eventually Korea. Christen was in the Army for three years, after which he came back to Iowa and did repair work on grain legs and other grain equipment.
“I have never had a job where I didn’t learn something that I eventually used in my shop,” related Christen.
In 1978 he started D.C. Welding, which originally was in the building now occupied by the convenience store and gas station in Wadena. Two years later he moved the business to its current location on East Water Street. Today he has one full-time employee and two part-time workers, as well as a part-time bookkeeper. After 35 years of running the business, he said he has no plans to retire at this point.
“It’s still fun, so as long as I am still having fun, there is no reason to retire. I have never had a day here where I didn’t want to get up and go to work,” declared Christen.
As we walked around his shop, he pointed out some different tools and machines that he uses, many of which he has built or modified himself. He is especially proud of a roller that he built from scratch that he uses to roll steel. As Christen shaped a piece of steel into a circular form to show me how the machine worked, it became obvious to me that he still has a passion for what he does. Not only that, but he also shows a genuine desire and excitement to continue learning.
“If you are still doing things the way you did them a year ago, that might be okay. If you are still doing things the way you did them five years ago, you are probably falling behind everyone else,” advised the veteran blacksmith and weldor.
Christen has been very active in his community, which is another reason why IBWA selected him for its Lifetime Member award. Over the years he has served on Wadena’s volunteer fire department, the First Responders, the American Legion, and has been an active member of the Illyria Community Church. He noted that Elgin and Wadena have always been his home, and being a positive force in his community is important to him.
IBWA could not have chosen a more worthy recipient to recognize with its award, though Christen would probably shy away from making too big a deal out of it. He is proud, however, to represent the organization and plans to continue doing so to the best of his ability for as long as possible.
(Editor’s note: The word weldor has traditionally referred to a person who welds. The word welder refers to the machine that does the welding.)