Lorena Liane Christman: 1941–2023

Lorena Liane Christman died peacefully on September 18, 2023, surrounded by loved ones at her home in Lyons, Colorado, after a brief and severe illness. A mother, grandmother, and highly accomplished environmental scientist.

She was born Lorena Liane Randolph on October 26, 1941, in San Francisco, the second child of Robert and Donna Randolph, and grew up in Salem, Oregon with her four brothers (two of them her adopted cousins) and one sister. A graduate of South Salem High School, Lorena attended college at UC Berkeley, aspiring to become a journalist. There, she fell in love with geography and geology, and met her future husband, Stephen Champlin, who would become the father of her two daughters, Robin and Katy. Her third daughter, Amie, was welcomed from her second marriage to surgeon, Jules Margoles. After graduation, Lorena took a job as a cartographer, and then worked for decades to become a leader in the field of urban planning and environmental science. As an Engineering Geologist, her first husband was transferred from the Bay Area to Southern California, Los Angeles, in 1964 to be a lead engineer for the new highway system. Here, Lorena proudly raised her family in a unique home, a 1920’s bungalow. She reflected that she relished the family’s friendships with parents and brilliant intellectuals during those years.

In 1987, Lorena discovered Boulder, Colorado when visiting her daughter, Katy. She was so deeply inspired by the exquisite landscape of mountains, sky, and the small community, that she put the bungalow on the market to join Katy and move Robin and Amie to Colorado the following month. 

In 2007, one year after the loss of her third husband, an accomplished craftsman, Phil Christman, Lorena called up her daughters and said, “I’m ready to have a wonderful group of friends again.” She began looking to downsize. Soon after, she re-discovered Lyons, CO, and moved first to River Cliff and then to her dream home nestled above the St. Vrain River and Rockygrass Festival grounds. We all stood in awe when, on the very first afternoon of her arrival in Lyons, she was invited to join a potluck of friends: teachers, musicians, story-tellers, urban planners, and Lyons City Council Members too. The group became a clan of best buddies who did everything together, and she so appreciated having their special friendship all these years, to this day. Near her passing, she reflected that this group had “shared endless skies of stars, sunsets, rain storms, and even sunrises together.” Lorena kept the tradition alive by regularly hosting gatherings and celebrations in her home. She hosted all of her daughters weddings in her home as well and even contributed the splendid cooking and decorating.

Lorena was currently, Principle Scientist and Advanced Writing Consultant for ESA PCR, a leading Environmental Consulting Company in California. She drew on her years of expertise in environmental law, journalism, urban planning, geology, and science to be irreplacable at her job. Her boss, Michael Harden, writes that Lorena oversaw regionally significant, complex, and politically challenging projects [and] enjoyed the ‘hard stuff.’ She could tackle a wide range of technical issue areas, but one of her favorites was geology.” A large staff of scientists depended on her to creatively problem-solve the company’s most complex and foreboding projects and to be someone who could turn a 2500+ page propsosal around in 24 hours, even going without sleep to do so. 

Harden continues, “She was a technical expert, highly skilled in her research and prolific in her writing. Her colleagues marveled at her ability to dissect and analyze issues, which always withstood tough legal challenges.  While Lorena was not only the epitome of a professional, she was genuine friend to many of her colleagues.  Conversations with Lorena often started about work-related items, but they almost always ended with interesting stories of and/or updates about her family, especially her kids and grandkids. She prioritized her family, but always came through for her team. Lorena will be missed not only for her planning expertise, but also for her friendship and vibrant personality.  She was one of a kind.”

Lorena was a profoundly cool grandma who took a devoted and lively interest in her grandkids. She was also an independent woman who was a wonderful, steadfast mother, wife, sister, and friend. According to her daughter Robin Champlin, “She worked tirelessly, always giving her all to assist others in the workplace or as a devoted mother and wife. She was a regular powerhouse in everything she did and in how she held conversation. She found pleasure in performing at such a high level, even if it just involved fixing a meal or doing someone a favor.” An avid reader and researcher with an inquisitive and brilliant mind, Lorena devoured research journals and took pride in being up to date with current breakthroughs in every field, from science to world politics and culture. She was also a lifelong gardener— wherever she lived, and just as her own mother had, she kept a magnificent garden.

Lorena learned she had metastitized cancer shortly before her passing, and spent her final weeks assuring friends and loved ones that she was truly curious about her next adventure. She is survived by her loving husband, Ned Alterman; three daughters—Robin Champlin, Katherine Champlin Rice, and Amie Margoles—all of whom are musically inclined, and four grandchildren, whose company she adored; one brother, William Randolph; one sister, Jeane Lucas; and two adopted brothers, Johnny and Pat Randolph. She was preceded in death by one brother, Robert Randolph, and by both parents. 

May Lorena’s big heart and fantastic sense of humor, wisdom, and courage continue to spread joy as they always have, so naturally and generously —May her love and creative spirit live forever in our hearts.

A service celebrating her life will be held at her home in Lyons, CO on JULY 20th, 2024. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a nonprofit of your choice that tends to the bounty of our natural world or the human spirit, for example, Arbor Day Foundation  MiphamShedra.org, or the Lyons Community Foundation. 

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