Once a Duck, always a Duck: Remembering Connor James

Connor James pictured here at a Eugene park in February. (Photo by Ben Avis, courtesy of Chris Arreola)

Oregon lost a Duck, a best friend, a brother and a son at the beginning of April. Connor James was a freshman studying biology at the University of Oregon. James died falling from a train on April 1. At 18 years old, he is survived by his family: his parents, two sisters and three step sisters.

Originally from Washington state, James moved to Salem, Oregon, to attended elementary school. In fifth grade he started playing lacrosse, which would become a driving passion in his life. Lacrosse led him to a close friendship with another fellow Duck, Chris Arreola.

James and Arreola met in sixth grade at Judson Middle School and became fast friends. Arreola played baseball, but James was adamant that his friend should join him on the lacrosse field.

“I’ll never forget how determined he was to teach me and fuel my own love for the sport,” said Arreola. “He would spend hours after school teaching me how to pass and catch the ball. That’s the kind of guy he was.”

A midfielder, James was a natural on the lacrosse field, becoming the team captain in his senior year at Sprague High School. They made it to the state playoffs that year.

The head coach of the Sprague Olympians lacrosse team, Efrain Guzman, has said publicly that James’ number 6 will be retired for the rest of this season.

Friends remember James as the comedic heart of each of his friend groups.

“Connor was always the one cracking jokes and lightening the mood,” said Arreola.

The two long-time friends were roommates in Spiller Hall on campus. They made other friends in the residence hall through a first-year interest group called the Politics of Hip-Hop.

“It was so nice because we all already had something in common,” said Alivia LeMaster, another member of James’ FIG. “It was really perfect for starting that friendship, and I met Connor through Chris.”

LeMaster said the FIG group hung out in James and Arreola’s room often, watching movies and laughing together.

“Connor was so funny and surprising,” LeMaster said. “We would be watching a movie and suddenly he would just break out with some joke or another.”

Arreola attended the memorial service held for James at the Salem Alliance Church on April 9.

“It wasn’t a traditional type of funeral,” Arreola said. “It was more a celebration of life – mostly friends and family gathered around telling stories while we played some of Connor’s favorite music.”

“Howlin’ for You” by The Black Keys and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen were a couple of the songs played.

James’ family started a fund with which they hope to set up a lacrosse scholarship. The website for the funding page can be found at gofundme.com/vjxgxmak.

James’ birthday was April 20. He would have turned 19 years old.

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