CAPE ELIZABETH – The family of Madelene Russ stood by her bedside Tuesday morning at Village Crossings in Cape Elizabeth in the moments before she died.

Mrs. Russ’ three children were there, along with their spouses and one of her grandchildren.

“It was a remarkable experience,” said her son Joel B. Russ of Walpole. “It was very peaceful. She was in no pain. … I never really had a big hole in my heart, but for the first time I do.”

Mrs. Russ, 98, was remembered by her family on Friday as a woman of beauty, elegance and grace, who had warm blue eyes that sparkled and hearty belly laugh that made everyone feel good around her.

Up until a week ago, Mrs. Russ was sitting up in her recliner talking with her family and friends and watching television.

Her daughter-in-law Carolyn Russ of Walpole said an aide helped her get dressed for the day every morning.

“Even to the end, she was wearing her age-defying makeup and ‘Love that Pink’ lipstick,” she said. “She was a beautiful elderly person. She had beautiful hair. Everyone commented on her sparkling eyes and she just loved to laugh.”

Mrs. Russ was a school nurse and health educator for Cape Elizabeth schools. During her brief stint at the school department, she was instrumental in establishing a variety of health programs. She helped develop health policies for the school system and created a health education program that emphasized the importance of good health habits, attitudes and practices.

For her work, Mrs. Russ was presented with an award from the Maine Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

“She loved being with the students,” her daughter-in-law said. “They all came to her. She was more than a nurse, she was a confidant.”

She was married to Robert C. Russ for 66 years. He died in 2006.

The couple met at the University of Maine at Orono, where she graduated with a degree in sociology.

Her family said the couple had a seven-year courtship before they got married in 1940.

She put her nursing career on hold to raise her children. Her son said she was a great mother and role model for them.

“I have 65 years of memories of her and they are all wonderful and positive memories,” her son said. “Each of us were extremely important to her and she would do anything to support us. That same type of care extended to other people.”

As a homemaker, Mrs. Russ volunteered in the community for organizations such as the Junior Guild of State Street Church in Portland. She also served on the board of directors for Sweetser and was a member of the Cape Elizabeth School Board.

At age 95, Mrs. Russ received a lifetime achievement award from the Maine Cancer Foundation. She was a two-time survivor of breast cancer and a founder of Reach to Recovery Program, a volunteer organization for breast cancer survivors in Maine.

The family spoke Friday about spending many summers in a rustic cottage at Cape Rosier in Harborside. There, she enjoyed gardening and boating on Penobscot Bay in the Maddy B, a wooden lobster-style boat that the couple bought in their 60s.

Carolyn Russ said the couple sold the boat in their early 1980s, but missed it so much that they bought it back. She said they spent six months of the year at the cottage.

“You never saw one without the other,” she said. “They were very close. They were both Mainers who loved Maine and loved the ocean.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]


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