Did you know Rusell? I have known Russell for 5, maybe 6 years. Russell was a regular on Tenney Way. Whether he was having lunch at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention or spending time at The Gathering Place, Russell was an important member of our community. Russell had a charm and charisma that drew you to him. He took the time to learn your name and even had nicknames for many of the volunteers at MCHPP and TGP. Russell went out of his way to wish you a good day or a good weekend. He always wanted to lend a helping hand. Whether it was bringing groceries to clients’ cars, weeding the gardens on our campus or picking up litter in the parking lot,  Russell was the first person who volunteered to help. He took pride in it. He would always remark how much being on our campus meant to him and he wanted to make sure he did his part.

As many of you read in The Times Record article, Russell was in and out of homelessness and sometimes he would disappear for a day, a week or even longer. He was always missed when he was away and we would wonder where he was and hoped he was safe, warm, fed and sheltered.  Russell always came back and brought joy and laughter to all of our lives. I wished I had known more about Russell. I wish I had known that he grew up in Brunswick and that he was a veteran. I wished I had known that he had worked at several businesses in our community. I wish I had known that he was a history buff. I only knew Russell as a friendly person always willing to help. He always came to lunch late and stayed till closing time. He always said he would try and get to lunch a little earlier. Russell could put a smile on anyone’s face. He was part of our community.

Karen Parker,
Executive director of Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program

I was lucky that I did know many of those wonderful things about Russell. While Russell was visiting The Gathering Place, he would sit with me and he would recall battles from history and speak of relatives who may have fought in the great wars. He had such passion, which I suspect is what drew him to serve in the Navy. He loved history and would constantly recite historical facts from memory. I enjoyed it when he would recite lyrics from his favorite country music songs and Patsy Cline was a favorite of his. He dictated funny nursery rhymes and always tried to include the names of our volunteers in them. As Karen mentioned above, he had great nicknames for many volunteers, we have Patsy Cline, Dr. Phil, Sally Jessey Raphael, Colt 45 etc. Russel was a collector. When he received word that he had been granted a VASH voucher he was thrilled. He found this wonderful picture of a shrimp boat and ask to keep it in my office. He planned to hang it in his new apartment when he found one. Fishing calmed him and he found peace in this picture. I was looking at it today and it brought a tear to my eye. ”   Russell died last week . He was found under the Federal Street Bridge in downtown Brunswick. The quote by Robert South says, “If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.”

Russell gave so much to the community of Brunswick and never asked for anything in return. He showed such grace in the way he carried his burdens with humor and generosity. He was a kind man and a friend to many.  His life should not be forgotten. He died alone, outside in the cold and we are heartbroken. Please join us in remembering Russell as a friendly, helpful community member who was a product of Brunswick schools, a veteran, a brother, a friend, and someone who had challenges but remained positive in the toughest circumstances. Rest in peace dear friend. Your spirit will live on in the community you created. Thank you for being in our lives and teaching us all how to live freely and fully.

Mary Connolly,
Executive director of The Gathering Place daytime drop-in center

Russell’s family requested that  memorial contributions may be made to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans 1730 M Street NW, Suite 705, Washington DC 20036.

Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community. 

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