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Richard Persons Russ

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Richard Persons Russ
of Chenango Forks
Richard Persons Russ died peacefully on December 19, at his home and in the loving care of his wife and children. His death marks the end of a short but well-fought battle with cancer, and the end of a life lived with vitality and an extraordinary desire and ability to engage others. Even in his illness, his toughest test, he did what he did best - fought until the end and built a team around him, this time of caregivers, friends new and old, and, of course, us, his family, who will miss him every day for the rest of our lives.
Dad had many roles - beloved husband to our mom Edie, father, grandfather, brother, friend. But he is best known as a teacher and football coach, both life callings that brought him purpose and joy. Dad received a BA in history from SUNY Cortland in 1963 and a Master's in 1966. He taught high school social studies for 32 years, two at Norwich and 30 at Chenango Forks. His students remember his passion for European history and exuberance in the classroom; it was not a dull place to learn.
Dad began a 40-year coaching career in 1965, as assistant coach to his friend Jerry Taylor at Chenango Forks High School. He was in charge of defense at the time and took great pride, throughout his life, in his ability as a defensive coordinator. In 1977, he became head coach at Forks, where he remained until 1995 and had a career record of 117-57-3, including 10 league or divisional championships, seven NYS Section IV finals, and five Section IV championships. His last year at Forks, Dad was named the Section IV Coach of the Year.
In 1996, after retiring from Chenango Forks, Dad became the head coach at Maine-Endwell High School, where there was not at that time a tradition of winning, but much raw talent. After two seasons at M-E, Dad took the team to a NYS Section IV championship, a NYS Central Region championship, and the NYS semi-finals. That year, 1998, he was honored as the Binghamton Press Coach of the Year and NYS Football Coach of the Year. Dad remained at M-E for eight years, resulting in seven winning seasons and a record of 49-29. His time with the program also brought him some dear friends, including Regan and Carol Beers, who have been a mainstay in Dad's recent care.
Although Dad intended to end his career at M-E, he couldn't stay away from coaching. In 2004, he joined the sprint football staff at Cornell, where he helped to coordinate the team's defense for two seasons. Although he said goodbye to coaching after 2005, he still enjoyed assisting at his grandson Blaine's practices in the Forks youth football program over the last couple of years. Dad has been loved and supported throughout his life by our Mom, with whom he celebrated a 50th anniversary last July. Their partnership was built on a shared devotion to family and friends, an ability to see and bring out the best in others, and a belief in hard work and serious fun. Dad loved nothing more than hosting large summer barbecues, and having his and Mom's home, porch, pool, and garage full of those he cared about. He would stand at the grill, over dozens of steaming clams, and exclaim how happy and lucky he was. Indeed, it was his ability to appreciate all of life's moments, and what each of us uniquely bring to them, that has provided the greatest example to us, his children, and his grandchildren. He loved the complexity of human nature, and truly believed that sometimes it is our frailties and challenges that make us most compelling and interesting to love. This was certainly the case with him.
Dad is survived by his wife, Edie; children and their spouses, Lisa Russ Swim and Dan Swim (New Milford, Conn.), Richard and Mary Russ (Castle Creek, N.Y.), Ann Russ (Rochester, N.Y.), and Amy Russ and John Webster (Ithaca, N.Y.); brother and sister-in-law, Don and Mai Russ (Charlotte, N.C.); uncle and aunt David and Arleen Russ (Baldwinsville, N.Y.); and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. He will be missed dearly by his eight grandchildren - Travis, Stephanie, and Austin Swim; Sophie and Blaine Russ; and Clara, Julia, and Louis Webster - as well as his niece, Dorinne Russ. He played a special role in each of their lives, giving endlessly of his time and affection, and teaching them to swim, fish, golf, play football and, most important, not take themselves too seriously. We know that his gentle spirit and good humor will live on in them.
Our family would like to say a special thanks to Dr. Bowling and his wonderful nurse Pam, Dr. Kloss and his associates at Broome Oncology, and the staff of 1 Ross at Lourdes Hospital for their care of Dad and our family. Making new friends at the hospital over the last few months brought Dad some fun and joy at the end of his life, and demonstrated, one last time, his remarkable skill as a community-builder.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 27, at 2:00 p.m., West Presbyterian Church, 80 Main Street, Binghamton. Memorial contributions may be made to Lourdes Hospice, 4102 Vestal Road, Vestal N.Y. 13850.

Published in Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin on Dec. 21, 2008
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