May 15, 1931 - January 28, 2020
JOHN ERVIN (JACK) RUSSELL
John Ervin (Jack) Russell passed away peacefully at home on January 28, 2020, aged 88 years, to the pipe’s lament played by grandson John and great-grandson Cameron.
Dad was surrounded by his loving family; children Pat (Dan) Sylvester, Bob (Marie) Russell, and Ray (Carol) Russell as well as five grandchildren, Cathy (Ian), John (Laura), Meghan (Johnny), Daniel and Jennifer. He is also survived by nine great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by his loving wife Marie Innes, parents Ervin Harold (Pat) and Gladys (Glory) Russell, brother Gordon and sister-in-law Doreen, brother Bill, his parents-in-law Bruce and Pearl Innes, by his sisters-in-law Norma Bugg, Shirley Gillander, Marylin McRae, brothers-in-law Lorne Bugg and Earl McRae, and nephews John Gillander, James McRae, and Randy Mack and by his friend and companion Irene Schwark.
Dad was born in a house in Melita, Manitoba on May 15, 1931, and raised in the small village of Elva, Manitoba. Dad learned to be forthright, dependable, kind, and community-spirited from his mother and father. He received his formal schooling to grade 11 at Elva School and worked with his father in the general store in Elva.
In 1949 he moved to Winnipeg and then Brandon to work with Gillis and Warren. As a bachelor in Winnipeg Dad roomed in a house on Langside Street a short distance from another home on the same street where his father roomed as a bachelor 30-years previously.
Dad’s ambition was to join the RCMP and on December 17, 1951, he was offered engagement in the Force. Dad decided to forgo his dream of a profession in the RCMP and returned to Elva and Melita where he was needed by his parents and brothers in newly formed Russell’s Electric Limited wiring remote farms in south-west Manitoba to receive electricity.
In Melita, Dad worked in the family business and was president of the Melita Kinsmen Club. On October 17, 1954, he married Marie Frances Innes of Elva, Manitoba and they enjoyed over 43 years together. A daughter; Patricia Dianne was born in Deloraine in 1955 and a son; Robert John in Melita in 1957.
In 1959 Dad opened a branch of Russell’s Electric in Dauphin, Manitoba. While in Dauphin, a second son; John Raymond was born in 1962. Dad proudly served as a member of the volunteer Dauphin Fire Department, as a member of the Vermillion Masonic Lodge, Dauphin Lions Club, and Dauphin Commercial Travellers. Dad became lifelong friends with many people from Dauphin and the surrounding area.
In 1968 the family to Winnipeg where Dad accepted a position as an Electrical Consultant with the architectural firm of Pratt, Lindgren, Snider, Tomcej. In 1973 Dad accepted a position with the Province of Manitoba Department of Public Works where he was responsible for the electrical design of the Northern Manitoba School Construction program. He continued his career as a public servant and in 1989 was appointed to the Decentralization Committee by the government of the day. Dad was a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Winnipeg.
Dad retired in 1991. During his retirement was a member of the Disaster Assistance Board of Manitoba. He and Mom spent their initial retirement years between Mesa, Arizona and Miller’s Campground at Portage La Prairie. Many dear friends were made in both places. In 1995 they ceased travelling south and moved to Fort Garry Place but maintained their summer home at Portage La Prairie.
In 1998 Dad was devastated by the loss of Mom but his large family closed ranks and supported him. For many years, Dad took on the job of baking pies and cookies for the entire family at Christmas. He volunteered with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association until his health prevented further involvement.
In 2004 Dad organized the first Russell family reunion in Killarney, Manitoba and many members of the extended and scattered Russell family gathered and placed a memorial marker that Dad designed and had made at the site of the old 1882 James Russell homestead on Section NE 26-4-18 WPM, and south of Dunrea, Manitoba. Every year, while still able, he journeyed out to replace the flags and trim the tall grass. Dad and the family are profoundly grateful to Grant Tweed, a longtime friend of the Russell family, who without being asked, performs the same task each spring on behalf of the family. We cannot thank Grant enough for this or for his recent visit with Dad in hospital.
In 2005 Dad met his friend and companion of later years, Irene, and he moved to Beausejour, Manitoba. In 2008 they moved to Winnipeg and enjoyed the years together finally moving to 20 Fort Street until failing health forced her return to Beausejour. Dad stayed in Winnipeg but visited her often. Irene passed away in 2017. Irene’s family, Kim and Wayne Voss, Derrick, Kristen, Harley, and Travis completely accepted our dad as one of their own and we are grateful to them for the kindness and love they showed him in life and their respect for him in death.
Dad lived his life well and whatever job he faced he completed it with enthusiasm and ingenuity. He was an inveterate builder or modifier. He built his first house in Melita and when his grandmother saw it he apologized that the basement had a dirt floor. His grandmother replied that when she married his grandfather in 1890 they had a buffalo robe for a door. He built a houseboat, and two motor homes, one from an old Modern Dairies milk truck and one from an old bus, countless sheds for friends and families, decks, sunroofs, Arizona rooms. The list could go on. He was never happier than when he was building something. It was his relaxation. He was always ready to help family or friends. When first faced with mobility challenges he constructed what the family named the “Command Centre” with everything he needed within easy reach of his favourite chair. Dad even began calling it the “Command Center.”
Dad loved reading and devoured paperbacks like candy, and speaking of candy the only thing he liked better than anything chocolate or maple was strawberries and whipped cream. The pancakes were just something to pile the strawberries and whipped cream on. He loved pets, having over the years Buster the Lab, Tippy the Beagle and Toosie the Beagle/Terrier, cats Butch and Satan, and two budgies named George.
Dad loved each one of his large family and embraced every new addition as one of his own. He never failed to ensure birthday and Christmas cards were mailed to everyone and usually had money enclosed. He happily hosted the large Russell Family 2019 Christmas dinner in the recreation room of Fort Garry Place 9-days before his stroke.
Despite a deteriorating physical infirmity that eventually confined him to a wheelchair, Dad was steadfast in his determination to remain independent by “MacGyvering” the world around him. He continued to live independently in his home until suffering a stroke on December 31, 2019. The effects of the stroke were physically devastating but Dad’s mind remained sharp as a razor.
Dad received a very special visitor in the hospital when Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy came and swore him as an Honourary Constable of D-Division RCMP in recognition of his choice of family over engagement in the RCMP. He was presented with a certificate and a presentation RCMP badge. He solemnly recited the oath of office and loyalty to the Commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP and proudly saluted her in the correct RCMP manner. That he wasn’t wearing his stetson when he saluted was happily overlooked by his new boss. The family would like to thank Assist.Commissioner MacLatchey and the RCMP for bestowing this wonderful honour on Dad. Dad was deeply moved and quickly brought to tears of joy. It made him very happy indeed. The RCMP missed out on a good man when he changed his mind. It may have been one of the few times he ever did.
The Dauphin Fire Department searched their archives and located several photos of Dad while he served as a firefighter between 1959-1962. We will treasure them. We thank Dauphin Fire Chief Cameron Abrey for his efforts on behalf of the family and for his salute to Dad’s service.
Dad was stubborn and at times it drove his family crazy, but stubbornness was one of his greatest assets. When he made a decision often only Mom had a chance of shifting it. He faced the end of his life with stoic fortitude and an unwavering determination to be in control of that which he could. He always had the love and admiration of his family and this only increased as we witnessed his bravery to the end.
To the family, friends and former colleagues who came to visit from near and far, who sent flowers and cards or who called Dad on the phone. To Bob and Glenda Bates who have been dad’s great friends for years. To Dave, Dad’s home care worker who provided the only home care that Dad would accept and you treated Dad with true care and compassion. To Beverley Swaine and Nadine Sacrey, going down for breakfast was often the highlight of his day. He loved the jokes and the banter with you girls. And, of course, Hart and Wes for treating Dad as a pal and not just a tenant. You were all good to our Dad and you have our gratitude and affection. Everyone’s visits, calls, laughs, remembrances, condolences, love and respect for Dad help soothe our aching hearts and dry our tears.
To the EMS responders who quickly came to Dad’s aid, and to the doctors, nurses and staff at HSC Emergency Ward, Observation unit, GD4 and GD5 wards where Dad was well cared for after his stroke. We thank you all.
The family also is profoundly grateful to Dr. Manon Pelletier, MD, nurses and other staff at Shared Health Manitoba. Your collective and individual compassion for, and human solidarity with Dad has earned our respect, gratitude and affection.
Cremation has taken place and in the summer Dad’s ashes will be returned home to Melita and Elva where the family will place them alongside Mom, nearby his parents, his brother Bill, and so many other cherished family who have gone before. Some of Dad’s ashes will be scattered with his brother Gordon in Brandon Cemetery.
A Celebration of Life for Dad will be held on February 22, 2020, at 11AM at John Osborn VC Unit 1 – 1395 Ellice Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a charity of your choice or to the RCMP Foundation in support of charitable works across Canada or The Manitoba Firefighter’s burn fund in honour of the Dauphin Volunteer Fire Department or the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
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