Charles Alva

Charles Alva

Thursday, November 6th, 1919 Thursday, August 6th, 2020

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Obituary for Charles Allen Alva

Charles A. Alva, a man whose life was graced with many interests, adventures and accomplishments, slipped away peacefully on August 6, 2020 in Salem, Oregon. He had celebrated his 100th birthday in November of 2019.

Charles was born in San Jose, California on November 26, 1919 to Zena York and Joseph Alva. He graduated from San Jose High School in 1937 and San Jose State University in 1941. He entered graduate school, but as WWII loomed, like many of his generation, he interrupted his plans to answer his nation's call to duty, enlisting as a seaman in the U.S. Navy and later receiving his commission after completing officer candidate training. The war over, he returned to California, where he spent the next decade teaching high school English and using the G.I. Bill to complete graduate work at Stanford University (Master's degree in 1948 and Doctorate in 1960).

It was also during this time that Charles met Sylvia Kaplan, his soul mate and the love of his life, at the high school where they were both teaching. Their romance was briefly interrupted when, in 1961, he was offered a teaching position at the English Language School in Rome, Italy, later becoming its Director. But love always finds a way: Sylvia and Charles were married in London in 1962, and she would join him for his remaining time in Rome.

Back in the United States, the Alvas were about to make their final move – to Monmouth, Oregon, where in 1964 Charles was to become an English Language professor and Chair of the Humanities Division at tiny Oregon College of Education (now no-longer-tiny Western Oregon University). For the next 55 years they would live in the lovely home they built in Monmouth as Charles pursued his duties at the college and he and Sylvia became active members of the community they came to love.

Charles retired from WOU in 1984, but remained strongly engaged with both the university and the town, helping to establish the magnificent Paul Jensen Arctic Museum on the Western campus, creating and participating in several programs at the Monmouth Public Library as well as serving on its board of trustees, and supporting the numerous activities of the Monmouth-Independence Community Arts Association. Handball and golf were among his many passions, although he once noted, with his customary droll sense of humor, “I was never an athlete – but was smart enough to marry a P.E. Teacher.”

As a couple, Charles and Sylvia shared many delights and adventures, from the excitement of exotic cruises to the simple pleasures of entertaining friends in the home they loved so dearly and of which Charles was so proud. Frequent trips to San Francisco and the Bay area to visit with friends and relatives and to simply enjoy the city were a special joy.

Charles was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Bruce Barnard and Eugene Barnard, his sister Zena Jefferson, and his niece Donna Bick. He is survived by his wife Sylvia, a nephew, and three great nieces. A celebration of life will be planned for a future date. Special thanks to the staff at Sweet Bye N Bye Assisted Care facility in Salem, Oregon, and also to staff members from Lumina Hospice and Palliative Care of Corvallis, Oregon. Those wishing to donate in his memory are encouraged to make a gift to the Charles and Sylvia Alva Scholarship fund at Western Oregon University, administered by the WOU Foundation. Dallas Mortuary Tribute Center is caring for the family.

To plant a memorial tree in honor of Charles Allen Alva, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.
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Barbara (Mayfield) Lindley

Sixty nine years ago I had the pleasure to have a young good looking high school English teacher by the name, Mr Alva. The school was the brand new Capuchino High School. We were the very first graduating class. Unfortunately, I left school in my Junior year and married, but he was my favorite teacher for all three years. He made English one of my favorite classes. He was hard but had a dry sense of humor and never let up on us. He demanded our best and made us pay attention like a “Drill Sargent”. That was one of the classes I got an “A” in. I also had a secret crush on him. As the years moved on , we wanted a better place to raise our family of 9 kids, and came to Monmouth, Independence Oregon, where we had relatives. It was about 1974, while working a Blood Drive at OCE, I overheard some students saying how hard a professor was and his name was Mr Alva! I was shocked, how could that be my High School crush? I later had the chance to meet him and his wonderful wife, (she was teaching a Tennis class I was in). He looked the same, he hadn’t changed at all, I was not the ‘little blue eyed blonde’ anymore but he did remember me.
What a small world! 69 years and all the way from SanBruno, or Millbrae, Calif. to the small town of Monmouth,Oregon! I love to write and tell the many stories of my life and I give all the credit to Mr Charles Alva, the very best teacher a young ninth grader could have. What a fulfilling life he and Sylvia had and my condolences to her. I am one person who’s life he enhanced and I will never forget him. See you later.
Comment | Posted at 06:07pm via Condolence

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