Words of remembrance by Marge Silverthorn – November 11, 2007
Bob was a very special friend with whom I shared countless phone conversations over a period of about 15 years.
Bob January and his wife Betsy, along with their Springer Spaniel, Duncan, entered my life on a cool spring day in the middle of a field among hunting enthusiasts and Springer Spaniel lovers. Neither Bob, nor I wanted to hunt with our Springers, I was there because it was a Springer Club event and I was the President, and Bob and Betsy traveled over 2 hours to meet other Springer owners. Only a couple of hours passed and Bob and Betsy were ready to jump in and help Springer Rescue, a program to help Springers in need of new and loving homes. Hearing of a Springer in a local shelter, they left the event early to stop at the shelter and bail out that dog and therein began the commitment to our Springer Rescue Program. Countless dogs over the years were fostered by Bob and Betsy until new homes for them could be found. While under Bob’s care, each dog learned the joy of the freedom of long hikes on the Appalachian Trail and the responsibility that comes with such freedom, that is listening to, and staying with Bob.
Meanwhile, the phone conversations began to give me updates on each dog’s progress but then we digressed and each and every conversation was an education for me, Bob was an unending wealth of information and I, a most willing listener and learner. For this tone-deaf third grade teacher, the other love of Bob, his music, was a complete unknown, but Bob never gave up on enriching and broadening my knowledge of music, even if it was to sing to me on the phone. The highlight of my musical “lessons” took place after Bob suffered a stroke. He was to play at the Plaza hotel at the Cotillion Ball and Betsy could not be there for the rehearsal and Bob worried that he would not be able to clearly communicate his needs with strangers. I joined him for the afternoon, discovered that I could enjoy music and was awed by his talent as a musician and as a conductor. It was a most special afternoon with Bob and another memory of him which will always be with me.
Bob brought ESSCLI-Rescue into the 21st century by creating our first website, I didn’t even own a computer, Bob created the page, answered the inquiries and kept me informed via phone or copies sent in the mail. Here’s a snapshot of the ESSCLI-R’s “birth” – our first webpage, on Bob’s website: December 2, 1998. Click here to view a snapshot of this webpage.
My Bob was my friend, my teacher, my inspiration especially after his stroke, showing me that nothing can stop a person from accomplishing what they want to do. My Bob will live in my heart and mind forever and I can only hope that we will meet again, across that Rainbow Bridge in God’s Garden where our beloved Springers are after they have left this earthly life. And when we do meet again, Bob will make me laugh, Bob will sing to me, maybe even teach me to dance, and we will be surrounded by our dogs, our friends, and Bob’s music.
Many of our volunteers in the early years of rescue came to know Bob. Brooks Parrott told me of her meeting Bob at a vet’s office with a rescue dog. Bob began to sing to her and kneel in front of her to tie her shoelace, while another time at his home as they were awaiting the arrival of another volunteer; Bob played a recording of his own big band music and whisked her around the dance floor (open spaces) in his very large home. Upon hearing that I recall thinking it is good it was not I, as he would have very sore feet if he danced with his friend Marge with 3 left feet and no coordination!
Laurie Hildebrandt of NH shared the following:
I can see him crossing that Rainbow Bridge to follow all those old Springers into happiness!
My story about Bob has to do with one of those midnight Springer Spaniel pickup moments that we know so well… I was to meet Bob in Rensselaer, NY to pick up Toby, who he was bringing to me for adoption. He was in town for a music thing at a little church-turned-studio. I’d never been to Rensselaer and he e-mailed me instructions on how to get there. I arrived at the appointed hour and realized that it was nothing short of miraculous since the place was in the middle of a neighborhood far off the beaten path! The directions were to a T! And then there was my first impression of the larger-than-life Bob January: he greeted me like a long lost friend, even if I was only just another Springer lover gone mad.
That meeting was enough to put me on his e-mail address list and keep me checking on him for years to come!
And Ellen Oppenheimer from NJ summed it all up with:
Good souls come to peace and eternal love of family and friends.
Bob January’s obituary – published in York Daily Record & York Dispatch on December 11, 2006:
Bob January, 72
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO Bob January (born Robert George Slenker), musician, arranger, composer, and orchestra leader, died at the age of 72 at home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on October 27, 2006, after a short illness. He was born March 6, 1934, the son of the late Charles H. and E. Marian Slenker of York. Bob was predeceased by his infant brother in 1932. He is survived by his wife, Betsy January; daughters, Celeste Cockrell, Charlene Dodds, and Jill January; sister, Nancy Slenker Soroka of Athens, Pa.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. From an early age he was involved in music, playing mainly the saxophone and clarinet. He graduated from William Penn Senior High in 1952, attended Mansfield University, and graduated from Ohio State University in 1956 with a B.S. in Music Education. After teaching music in Ohio for several years, he moved to New York City, N.Y., where he played tenor saxophone with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Charlie Mingus, and Al Haig. He also opened a Piano Workshop and tuned pianos for the New York City public schools, many hotels, and pianists. Bob was instrumental in reviving big band music in New York City. He formed the Original Swing Era Big Band to play the original charts of the big bands, and the band appeared weekly for several years at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village. There he met Eubie Blake who commented, “You’ve got that same thing Glenn Miller had.” Proving Eubie correct, Bob used his skills as an arranger to create the Satin Swing Orchestra which performed extensively at the historic Roseland Ballroom, in the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center, and for many private functions throughout the New York City metropolitan area. He produced the MetroSwing Big Band which performed original “hot-swing” compositions. His Strauss Festival Orchestra, a 20-piece dance orchestra with strings, performed for major engagements and was the standing orchestra of the New York Quadrille Ball for eight years. After visiting Mexico several times, he and his wife decided to move to San Miguel de Allende in 2004, where he played regularly at Harry’s New Orleans style restaurant and other jazz establishments. He and his wife also enjoyed traveling throughout Mexico. His passing was a severe shock to his wife, children, and sister. A memorial service was held in San Miguel de Allende on November 1, 2006. A jazz memorial service will be held in New York in January.