Roy Christensen, a major innovator and 58-year veteran in the long term care profession, died peacefully on Nov. 11, 2021, at the age of 87.

Christensen, along with his son, Christopher, founded the health care company Ensign Group Inc. in 1999, and he served as a member and chairman of its Board of Directors until 2019, when he became chairman emeritus and director. Ensign Group Inc. is the parent company of the Ensign group of 245 companies that invest in and provide skilled nursing, senior living, and rehabilitative care services in 12+ states.

“It’s difficult to sum up the influence Roy had on our industry and the little company we started 22 years ago,” said Christopher Christensen, Ensign’s executive chairman. “He truly was a pioneer and a visionary who has impacted so many that knew him and even more that did not.”

At the core of Ensign’s vision was achieving a culture of leadership and values in individual facilities that would better serve patients and their families, Christopher said. His father was “especially honored when he talked about all of the thousands of co-founders and heroes that strive every day to carry out this collective mission,” he said. “Words can’t describe how much he was loved and will be missed.”

Barry Port, Ensign’s chief executive officer (CEO), added, “Roy once told me that his involvement in helping to form this Ensign family was one of the crowning achievements of his entire life. Roy’s place in the culture of Ensign is irreplaceable, but our entire company is joined together in our determination to honor his legacy.”

Prior to founding Ensign, Christensen was founder and chairman of Beverly Enterprises in 1963, which grew to be the largest nursing home company in the country, with more than 1,000 facilities. He also served as chairman and CEO of GranCare, which later merged into Mariner Post-Acute Network. In 1994 he founded Covenant Care, another successful long term care company.

In the course of his long career, Christensen also taught at Brigham Young University and served as a member of President Nixon’s Advisory Task Force on Medicare and Medicaid. He spent four years as a member of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare’s Advisory Task Force.

“Roy Christensen was an absolute giant in the long term care industry,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. “In developing Ensign with Christopher, he proved that a very large company can provide exceptional care to residents and create phenomenal jobs for employees. The lessons of Ensign will survive for many years.”