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Gene Russell

1923 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Gene Russell Obituary
Gene Russell, 94, of Olathe, KS, passed with love in the presence of his family on May 24, 2017, at Kansas City Hospice. He is survived by his wife, Florence; daughter, Mary Ellen Sippel (Greg), Overland Park, KS; daughter, Gale Hansen (Jim), Shawnee, KS; grandson, Travis Morris, Lawrence, KS; grandson, Chris Hansen, Seattle, WA; granddaughter, Lauren Hansen (Shane Johnston), Seattle WA; granddaughter, Elizabeth Hansen Shawnee, KS; and granddaughter, Kathryn Hansen, Seattle, WA. His 96-year-old brother, Chuck, Stillwater, OK, also survives him. His parents, Charles and Minnie Russell, Westville, OK, preceded him in death. Gene was born in Summers, Arkansas, on January 5, 1923. He grew up on a small farm during the depression in Westville, OK, where he played high school football and basketball, graduating in a class of just 13 at Watts High School. Shortly after school, he answered the call of duty by joining the army in 1943, to fight in WWII. His unit, a part of the famed 12th Armored Division, "Hellcats," was captured in Germany following the D-Day Invasion and he spent 99 days in Stalag 5A. He never talked about this. When questioned about his time in the German POW camp, he showed no malice toward his captors. He simply said, "the Germans were suffering too." He kept a diary during his time in camp and it tells the story of his unit during his capture, including being tightly packed and transported in railroad cattle cars for six days and nights with no heat, food, or water. He recorded his fellow POWs' personal information, "just-in-case." He suffered from malnutrition, frostbite, and dysentery during his capture. Later in life, we learned he scaled up the flagpole when the camp was liberated and removed the Nazi Prison Camp Flag. He donated that flag to the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum at Abilene Christian College. Gene was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroic service. After the war, Gene attended Oklahoma State University and earned a degree civil engineering in 1949. He was a member of the Acacia fraternity. He went to work for the Kansas City Southern Railroad in Pittsburg, Kansas. He met and married Florence Nightingale (no woman has ever been happier to give up her maiden name), settling down and raising two daughters, Mary Ellen and Gale. Later, Gene went to work for McNally Corporation in Pittsburg, Kansas, and designed coal-washing equipment. During this time he went to night school and received a Master's Degree from Pittsburg State University, and later a Specialist Engineering Degree from the University of Arkansas. While living in Pittsburg he was a member of the Pittsburg Masonic Lodge and First United Methodist Church. While still working at McNally, Gene began teaching night classes at Pittsburg State University in the Construction Technology Department. Teaching was truly his passion and he left McNally to take a full-time faculty position at Pittsburg State, where he taught until he retired. Concurrently, he started a surveying business and bought a small farm where he raised Devon Cattle and Paso Fino horses for his wife. He enjoyed the challenge of multiple jobs, using a variety of skills. Gene was a kind and caring man whose life-long mission was to take care of his family. He spent many of his last years as the round-the-clock caretaker for his wife, devoted to her care and rarely leaving her side. His pride was in watching his grandchildren grow, but other loves included gardening, crossword puzzles, his dogs, and watching the news. He lived his 94 years self-sufficiently and in relatively good health. He was the very definition of "sharp as tack," having recently completed his own taxes and regularly finishing off the New York Times crossword puzzle. Gene always referred to God as, "the man upstairs." As a man devoted to his faith, Gene surely received a hearty welcome as he ascended those stairs to join his God. The family would like to thank the staff at Kansas City Hospice for the loving care he received during his last days. It is requested that no flowers be sent, but donations may be made to Kansas City Hospice, www.kchospice.org/donate, or to the American Red Cross www.redcross.org/donate, whose care packages kept him alive during his days as a POW. In the spirit of the 12th Armored Division's motto "Speed Is the Password" – please join us as we wish Godspeed to Gene during a celebration of life at 4:00 PM, Friday, July 14, 2017, at Amos Family Funeral Home 10901 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, Kansas 66203. Online condolences may be expressed at www.amosfamily.com
Published in Morning Sun on June 3, 2017
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