Community, Creswell, Obituaries & Tributes

One last ride for Al January: Friends, family to celebrate late Creswell veteran

A Celebration of Life will be held at 1 p.m. on June 15 at Northwood Christian Church, 2425 Harvest Lane, Springfield.

CRESWELL – Alfred “Al” January found fulfillment in quiet acts of kindness. His passing in March impacts the community in both subtle and deeply profound ways, and next weekend, friends and family will gather to mourn their loss and celebrate Al’s life.

There’s one less person rescuing stray cats, and one less person volunteering at community events now. There’s one less stranger offering lunch to the unhoused, and one less gent with a shy, beaming smile taking a leisurely midday stroll down Oregon Avenue.

Al was as much a part of the community as it was a part of him. He lived his life in an unobtrusive, gentle manner, learning at a young age that you give what you’ve got to others without hesitation.

“Our mother used to tell us, ‘if you have two slices of bread in your house and your neighbor has none, you give your neighbor a slice,’” said Al’s twin, Edward. “That kind of mindset that was instilled in Alfred.” 

In late March 2023, with complaints of pain,  Al visited the emergency room in Cottage Grove. Less than a year later, on March 10, 2024, Al died from prostate cancer in his living room-turned-hospice, surrounded by loved ones. He was 76.

Al, a 1965 Thurston High alum, leaves behind his wife Kathleen ”Kathy” January, of Creswell; daughter Bernice January, of Springfield; his daughter Charliene Tobler, of Eugene; his twin brother, Edward “Ed”; his brother, Elmer; and four grandchildren. 

* * *

Born in the backseat of a 1936 Oldsmobile, Al entered this world already having a story to tell. 

A decade before ultrasounds changed the medical landscape, Phyllis and Elmer January eagerly expected a baby in the summer of 1947. 

On June 23, Phyllis woke up to labor pains. Long before I-5 carved out straight shots from town to town, the pair booked it from Drain through the windy, narrow Highway 99, determined to make it to the hospital in Eugene for the birth.

It was a valiant effort. They didn’t quite make it.

By the time they got to Creswell, breathing heavily and clutching her belly, Phyllis instructed Elmer to pull over near the train tracks. 

That’s when the Januarys became a very short-lived family of three. They welcomed a healthy baby, Edward, and after some clean-up, continued toward the hospital.

But by Goshen, Phyllis was still in labor. Under a bridge with railroad tracks overhead, she birthed a second baby she never knew she was carrying. She called him Alfred.

Kathy January, Al’s widow, stands between Edward and Judy January — Al’s twin brother and sister-in-law. The Januarys spent the day looking through old photos of Al as they prepare for his Celebration of Life on June 15. 

* * *

The family moved around some, having lived on a wheat farm in The Dalles and eventually landing in Springfield in 1957 — an era when technological advancements began accelerating the pace of daily life in America. 

“The early ‘50s was the beginning of having both men and women working to support the household: two cars, refrigerators, TV,  freezer — they had to buy all this stuff,” Ed explains. “By the mid ‘60s, it was almost necessary for both people in the marriage to have to work to support the family and themselves,” Ed said. Having no opportunity to obtain workplace skills previously, and having her hands busy raising what became five kids, their father was the only one earning a paycheck.

“There were times growing up when we did not have food for dinner that night, but that was just how it was. That was normal to us, so we didn’t think much of it,” Ed said. 

They just lived like kids did back then, finding ways to scrounge together coins for their toys. The twins were paperboys for the daily, and “we collected beer bottles and cashed them in for money to spend on model cars at the 88-Cent Store,” Ed said.

Edward, left, and Alfred January at Keesler Air Force Base in October 1967.

The twins also learned lessons of integrity along the way.

“When we were 10, we went to what used to be Alexander’s Department Store in Springfield to get school clothes,” Ed recalls. “We were going to put our clothes on layaway and figure out a payment schedule.” The store owner overheard the Januarys discussing their payment options, when a store manager took a chance on the twins.

“He told us, ‘You can take the clothes today … but you kids need to come back and pay on it every month. … But I’ll tell you one thing, if you make a commitment and you fail to honor it, when you’re old and worth $10 billion, you won’t be worth a penny because your word is no good.”

*  *  *

Al may never have earned $10 billion, but his integrity remained steadfast until his passing — a quality that drew Kathy to Al over 40 years ago. 

“What I liked most about him was his integrity, his generosity,” Kathy said. “I think that’s what connected us all of those years ago.”

The two met at a letter shop where Kathy worked. Al, who worked as a service repairman for 40 years, made stops at Kathy’s work to repair postage meters and install equipment. The two became friends, eventually marrying on May 18, 1981 in Carson City, Nev. 

From then on out, it was Al and Kathy. Aside from frequently dropping off homemade sweet treats to friends, the Januarys are perhaps best-known for their heroic efforts rescuing and advocating for abandoned cats. Since 2007, Kathy estimates she and Al rescued 300-400 cats in Creswell alone, and hundreds more in neighboring communities. 

Al wades through shin-high water after a 2009 flooding at Sears Road Park to rescue abandoned cats. 

“I remember back in 2009 when there was flooding over at Sears Road Park. When Al heard about several cats being dumped off there, he waded through the water with a cat carrier in hand to rescue the animals,” Kathy said.

After spending 43 years together, memories both comfort and pain Kathy.

In a lot of ways, it feels like Al’s still here. 

Al’s things are still scattered throughout the house. He was an avid collector: he enshrined his Hot Wheel collection in the spare room, kept an eye out for oddball coins and rare stamps, and donned his refrigerator with quirky magnets. Having a catalog brain, Al excelled in math, puzzles, history, and genealogy. He was a fan of antique furniture, animals, and classic cars. 

Mail still comes addressed to him, like incurred accolades he’s earned while serving in the United States Air Force as a Sgt. E-4. He also served in the the United States Army National Guard and Army reserves as an E-7. 

From left: Edward, Sue, and Alfred January in June 1968.

Al, upon return from 2 weeks of National Guard training in February 1982.

“He used to teach the little kids over there in Korea how to speak English, and in return they’d try to teach Al how to speak Korean,” Kathy said, peering down at wooden Korean figurines Al kept in his collector’s den.

After serving, the brothers became subjects of the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging, as part of an ongoing study aimed to investigate the effects of aging and dementia on sets of male twins who served in the military during the Vietnam War. Every five or six years, and as recently as 2018, the pair were flown to varying states to continue their participation in the studies. 

Aside from Hot Wheels, Al was a fan of the real deal. He grew up loving hot rods, owned many classic rides throughout his life, frequented car shows, and belonged to the Survivor Car Club of Pleasant Hill.

At Al’s service next weekend, his friends and family plan to place Al’s urn in the backseat for one last ride in a classic vehicle.

“He wasn’t ready to go yet. He still had so much he wanted to do. He always said he wanted to take one last ride, but he just went down so quickly after he got sick that he never got the chance,” Kathy said. 

A Celebration of Life will be held at 1 p.m. on June 15 at Northwood Christian Church in Springfield. There will be food, a 21-gun salute, and in true Al fashion, classic cars. All are welcome to attend.

Memorial contributions in Al’s honor may be made to Cottage Grove Humane Society.



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