This past weekend my cousin (first cousin, twice removed), Robert Earl Russell, passed away at the age of 90. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to visit him just before Christmas. Besides the wonderful legacy he leaves in his children, one of the significances is that he was the last of his generation in the Russell family.
My great-great-grandfather, Walter J. Russell, lived from 1852 to 1895. He was the youngest son of Silas and Hester Russell. His first wife and my great-great-grandmother, Lois Ann [Cook], died in 1883, and his second wife and the grandmother of Robert Earl Russell, Cornelia [Sutphin] died in 1897. Walter had a total of 10 children through his two wives, the first, my great-grandfather Louis Russell, having been born in 1871 and the last in 1894. James Walter Russell, the father of Robert Earl Russell, was the second youngest, having been born in 1893. The last one to pass away from this generation was my great-great-uncle Earl who died in 1977.
Many of these 10 children passed away without any offspring, but between them they had 23 children. These 23 were all first cousins of one another. The oldest cousin was born in 1893, the youngest was born in 1926. My grandfather, Erskine Russell, was one of the oldest, having been born in 1894, Robert Earl Russell was born in 1926.
I am the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son of Walter J. Russell. In contrast, Robert Earl Russell was the youngest son of the youngest son of Walter. So while Robert is generationally in the same generation as my grandfather, he was 32 years younger than my grandfather and 6 years younger than my father.
My grandparents all passed away in the decade between 1969 and 1979. So it’s been nearly four decades since I have had a living grandparent. Until I started doing genealogical research just a few years ago, I thought that the last of my relatives from that generation was my great-aunt Edna who died in 1997 – nearly 20 years ago. So, at least for me, discovering my cousin (twice removed) Robert was like being an archeologist who finds a lost tribe in the Amazon jungle.
Now, at the age of 90, my cousin Robert is no longer with us and he can celebrate with his wife and all his other relatives who have gone on before him. Just on the Russell side, he will have quite a celebration – with two siblings, twenty first cousins, and (as best I have been able to document) another dozen or more second cousins!
He was truly the last of his generation in the extended Russell family. And I am so glad that I can say that I knew him! His daughter, Kim [Russell] Thompson, put it this way in her announcement.
“It is with mixed emotions that I let everyone know that heaven gained an angel today. Our dad, Bob Russell, left this world to join our mom and all his other friends and relatives who went before him. We miss [him] very much already, but know he is up there walking, driving, drinking wine, and having the time of his life. Just remember, life is fickle – eat dessert first!!!” [the last sentence is a quote from Bob.]