Jan LaBell
Jan LaBell
Jan LaBell
Jan LaBell
Jan LaBell

Obituary of Jan Joy LaBell

Jan Joy LaBell, 77, passed away on June 5, 2020. 


Jan was an Olympian through and through. Born in Olympia and raised on family property near Mud Bay, he and his younger sisters, Jenijoy and Jinx, thrived exploring the forest and Perry Creek. Jan built forts and camped and fed fish in the ponds, watched the water ouzel nest behind the waterfall, and, on his bicycle, outraced a bear on his way home one evening. In his youth Jan’s family took leisurely camping trips to California in their Studebaker, sleeping in the foldout Sky Roof his father built on top of the car. Jan was inherently creative and adventurous, loved anything quirky, and was always ready for a new challenge.  


Jan attended Griffin School, Olympia High School (as did his parents) and Western Washington University. After college, he returned to Olympia with his wife, Aymalee Millner, and their son, Count, to begin his teaching career at OHS. 


As a young man, Jan was successful racing his MG, Phox and McLaren cars, with young Count lending a hand on the pit crew. Jan cleverly modified his cars and was a determined and fast driver. Having earned pole position in one race at SIR, and leading by 20 seconds in the final lap, Jan’s car lost all power. He jumped out of the car and pushed it more than 100 yards across the finish line to earn second place.


Studebaker. Avanti. Ariel Square Four. Sunbeam. MG. Indian Chief. Jaguar XKE. Mini. A homely old Datsun pickup. Jan loved his wheels.  The tow vehicle for his race car trailer was a 1959 Divco milk truck, featured as an Olympia High School “Heap-of-the-Week” in 1971 in The Olympus. 


Jan taught at OHS for 32 years. He and his Work Experience crew were involved in civic projects throughout Olympia. Working with the City of Olympia, they created the Watershed Trail, built planters and benches at Percival Landing, and participated in the salmon spawning program at Moxlie Creek.  They farmed Christmas trees in the Chehalis Valley and operated the small Christmas tree plantation on school district property adjacent to OHS. 


During many summers Jan was involved in education when he took students to the Cispus Learning Center, taught at New Market Skills Center and helped students hone good work habits at various work sites in Eastern Washington. Following his tenure at OHS, he helped establish, and then taught at, Avanti High School. 


In 1982, Jan married Nan Neff McRayde. They enjoyed slowly exploring the local waters in their little 1947 Chris Craft cruiser (slow was the only speed with the old Hercules Marine engine). In 1990, they designed and built their home on the Steamboat peninsula and, over the years, Jan maintained the property to keep it looking its best. Jan was always supportive of Nan’s ideas and projects, culminating in the renovation of a 1958 travel trailer. Who would have guessed this 17-foot gem could provide Jan with so much pride and fun. He kept the aluminum trailer polished like a mirror and was pleased as punch when the reflected rays of sun from the trailer began to melt nearby plastic!


After retirement, Jan enjoyed Taco Thursdays and camping trips with the Good Ol’ Boys, and with Nan and friends in the Pacific North West.  He was always ready to have a good time and was known to enjoy cheap beer and Mexican food with extra hot sauce. 


Jan was a happy and proud man, who made life-long friends in many circles. He was creative, hardworking, gentle and nurturing. Jan was a wonderful son, brother and father, and a devoted and loving husband. He loved the stunning property where he was raised, and the home he shared with Nan. Jan’s was a life well-lived with no regrets. He was of the land and of Olympia with deep roots in the community. Above all Jan was genuine, and those of us who knew and loved him will fondly treasure his memory. He was always encouraging and positive and he leaves us confident and better prepared to face our own futures. 


Jan’s family is grateful for the loving care provided to him at The Hampton Memory Care home during the past year. 


Jan is survived by Nan, his wife of 37 years; his son, Count; sisters, Jenijoy LaBelle (California); Jinx (David) Brown (Montana); nieces, Breeze Holicky and Arielle Brown; nephew, Bryce Brown (Colorado) and their families; and Nan’s family and her son, Douglas McRayde. 


No memorial is planned at this time.


In lieu of flowers, please donate to your favorite charity or scholarship.


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