Charles J. Aleman died June 17, 2017, of respiratory complications in Denali Center with family and friends at his side.
He was born Oct. 8, 1927, and raised in a Catholic orphanage in Montreal, Quebec. He often reflected on the challenges of living there, hauling in coal to keep the stoves warm during winter. Throughout his years, he became familiar with languages. He could speak French, English, German, Greek and Spanish. Also during that time, Charlie was exposed to Christmas and all the work the orphanage staff put in to celebrate the holiday. He learned the skills of decorating trees and staging decorations in lifelike animation. Charlie would use these skills later in life to decorate his home on a year-round basis wherever he lived.
The discovery of his father owning a restaurant business in Mobile, Alabama, during the 1960s brought him to the United States. Charlie regularly attended and was one of the custodians at the Basilica Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Mobile, where he met the William Hendry family. Family gatherings and parties always included Charlie, especially during Christmastime at the eldest sister’s home, which he treasured.
His summer vacations often were to ride a bus across the country up to Vancouver, British Columbia, and then a train across Canada, then a bus back to Mobile. Charlie worked construction jobs gaining maintenance skills, which eventually got him a custodial position at Little Flower Catholic School. From landscaping to maintenance repairs to decorating the school for the holidays, Charlie did it all. He cherished, loved and reflected often on the years he worked there with the school staff and children. When retirement was evident, Charlie was awarded the Key to the School.
Charlie soon moved in the Cathedral Place Apartments in Mobile, enjoying retirement only to discover his work wasn’t done. He was called upon many times to handle maintenance jobs during the night and on weekends. He brought joy to the staff and residents at Cathedral Place and soon became “Father Christmas,” even prompting the city newspaper to write an article noting his skills for elaborate holiday displays in his apartment.
Charlie’s life would again change when the youngest Hendry brother, Dave, brought him to Delta Junction in 1997 to cut the lawn. He fished in Valdez and Homer, enjoyed the sights in Isabel Pass, and climbed Donnelly Dome. With subsequent summer visits, Charlie decided Alaska would be his new home. After tearful goodbyes at Cathedral Place, he made the final journey in 2007 to Alaska. Charlie established a home in Fairbanks and here the Fisher family adopted him as their own.
He enjoyed watching Ice Dogs hockey, visiting friends in Fairbanks and Delta Junction, and being part of the Zion Lutheran Church family. In 2014, his inability to climb his apartment stairs prompted Charlie moving to the Fairbanks Pioneers’ Home to the delight of the staff and residents. Charlie brought his Christmas cheer to the home year-round and made many friends. His passing has left a void in so many lives.
He is survived by Dave and Deanna Hendry, the only father he knew; his inseparable friend ,Bill Fisher – he and Charlie relied on each other; the Hendrys – Kathy and Andy, Cindy and Curtis, Frank and Heidi, Jeanne and Robert, Emily and John, Bryan and John Turner on their father’s behalf, and the extended family; and the Fishers – Cindy and John, Kristina and Dan, Anthony and Heather, Kimberly and Dustin, and their extended family.
He also is survived by friends including Ronnie and Sherry; Ray and Kathy; Jessica – who was there for him – Keith; Rick; Tony; Abe; Louis; and Helma.
Cremation by Chapel of Chimes.
Charlie’s Memorial Service will be at Zion Lutheran Church at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 15, 2017, with food, refreshments, and fellowship after the service.
Merry Christmas to all!