William W. Russell
COLUMBIA — William W. Russell of Columbia was a family man, hard worker and poet.
Mr. Russell died Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010. He was 81.
"He loved and was fascinated with the world, the heavens and the natural world," said his daughter, Marianne Marti. "He saw it with a poet's eye."
Mr. Russell was born on Oct. 18, 1929 on a farm northwest of Chilhowee, Mo. to Nelson Leonard Russell and Bertha (Matzenauer) Russell.
In Mr. Russell's early life, he was able to see much of the state of Missouri. In 1935, Mr. Russell's father left farming and took the family to Warrensburg, Mo. for two years to attend college and then to Columbia to receive his bachelor of science in agronomy. From there, the family moved to the Conservation Commission's DuPont Reservation north of Ashburn, in Pike County, Mo. It was there that Mr. Russell finished grade school in Ashburn and graduated from Louisiana High School.
He then attended Washington University in St. Louis on scholarship, graduating in 1951 with a degree in chemical engineering. Mr. Russell spent the following year in France on a Rotary International Fellowship and enrolled at Paris Sorbonne University.
After returning to St. Louis in the fall of 1952, Mr. Russell was employed by Monsanto Company and married Mary Faith Pellet the following year.
Soon thereafter, he was drafted by the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War and was stationed at the Army Chemical Center in Edgewood, Md., for two years until he was able to resume work with Monsanto in 1955.
Mr. Russell worked with the company for 34 years, including five consecutive years in northern France.
Together, Mr. and Mrs. Russell made a good life for themselves and their children in the various places that Monsanto took them.
Mr. Russell did not stop at Monsanto. At the time of his retirement, there was a shortage of math and science teachers in the St. Louis public school system. In acknowledgment of this shortage, Monsanto offered to cover the cost of retirees to become certified to teach. Mr. Russell, looking for a change and a challenge, became a teacher in general science and physics at University City High School in suburban St. Louis for the next six years following his retirement.
While his career achievements are extensive, family was the most important thing in Mr. Russell's life.
"He was very loving and supportive," said Marti. "He had a really big heart."
Mr. Russell was very proud of his wife and her writing accomplishments, and of their three children: Jeffrey, a physician assistant in Anchorage, Alaska; Sallie, who works as an interpreter in Valencia, Spain; and Marianne who, with her husband Bob Marti, operates Russell-Marti Conservation Services in California, Mo.
Second only to his family, poetry was the closest thing to Mr. Russell's heart.
"It was more than a hobby," said Marti. "He found his real voice in poetry."
Mr. Russell was quite fond of the work of Emily Dickinson.
Mr. Russell's family remembers his talent in just about everything he did, including linguistics.
"He was so good at languages that he actually taught himself to speak Spanish, just out of a book," Marti said.
Mr. Russell's parents had friends in Mexico. There, when he was 14, he hitchhiked across the country using his self-learned Spanish.
Mr. Russell is survived by his wife, Mary Faith; his son, Jeffrey Russell, and two daughters, Sallie Peinado and Marianne Marti; grandchildren Daniel and Sara Peinado, Louise and Francis Marti; and his "unofficial" family, the Grotrians and their son, Justin.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday at Calvary Episcopal Church.
Memorial contributions may be given to Calvary Episcopal Church in Columbia.
Online condolences may be left at www.parkerfuneralservice.com.