June 23, 1925 - August 30, 2018
On August 30, 2018, John Macauley Russell, beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, son, and “Menomonie’s Native Son” passed away. His family was with him. John was born on June 23, 1925 in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Other than the two years spent as a naval photographer during WWII and several years attending UW- Madison, he lived his entire life in his cherished Menomonie, Wisconsin. John was the eldest of four children born to Doris E. and Cecil M. Russell. He engaged in creative childhood ventures such as leading neighborhood children’s parades on 12th Avenue and forming a junior detective agency to investigate “local crimes”! His earliest jobs included working at Chase’s Cafe and Lee’s Drug Store; he also was a Milwaukee Journal paper carrier. It was at these establishments that John learned the importance of loyalty, hard work, and responsibility. Since his family didn’t own a vehicle, John rode his bike or walked to all Menomonie destinations - work, school, church with his family, special events held at the Dunn County Fairgrounds, and occasional treks to St. Paul and Duluth to visit his cousins. As a Menomonie High School Junior, John was chosen to attend Badger Boys State. A dance was held and teenage girls were brought in from towns around Ripon. It was there that he met Flora Lou Amthor, a tall 15 year old beauty from Waupun. They began a correspondence which lasted through John’s service in the Navy in World War II. John was a ship’s photographer, serving on three aircraft carriers, including the USS Shipley Bay. John often talked about his navy experience, including aircraft carrier life, and taking pictures upside down from planes. He participated in the Honor Flight in Washington DC several years ago, accompanied by his daughter, Cindy. Upon the end of the war, John enrolled in the University of Wisconsin - Madison on the G I Bill, studying in the School of Journalism before transferring to Art Education where he graduated with an M.S degree. On June 19th,1948, John married Flora Lou, also a UW-Madison graduate, and they resided in Madison for three years. Their daughter, Linda, was born there and the family of three lived in their first house - a trailer with no running water! In 1952, John and his and his family moved back to Menomonie and purchased a cottage on Tainter Lake. There, the family grew, and the first of four Russell’s Photography Studios opened in town. For more than fifty years, he took photos of high school seniors, weddings, family groups and other scenes documenting the life of the surrounding area. Every year found him greeting people at his booth at the Dunn County Fair, which he shared with his ventriloquist dummy, Hector. Well respected in the world of photography, he and Lou were presenters at numerous state and national photographers’ conventions during the 1960’s and 70’s. John’s talents and passions extended far beyond photography. He was a columnist, a playwright, an author, an artist, an actor, and a historian. He was a founding member of the Menomonie Theater Guild, wrote the Scenes of Yesteryear local history column in the Dunn County News, authored the Wisconsin Lore and Legends series that appeared in newspapers across the state (and collections of the series that were published in two books), the Wisconsin Lore and Legends Journal, and wrote Black Friday, a play based on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Black Friday was produced at the Mabel Tainter as well as theatres around the country. He also published Wiscomical, a bound collection of his own cartoon creations depicting Wisconsin history, and crafted the Wisconsin history-based card game, Wistory. John was involved in producing the play, Caddie Woodlawn, at the Mabel Tainter Theater -- an event attended by the book’s author, Carol Ryrie Brink. Proceeds of the production helped create the Caddie Woodlawn Wayside Park. He also helped facilitate the Caddie Woodlawn movie, produced in 1989. He co-authored a book, Where the Wild Rice Grows, that celebrates the foundation and history of Menomonie and Dunn County. John was a past president of the Dunn County Historical Society (DCHS) and conceived and designed the history museums in Downsville and Menomonie. During the past several years, he generously donated his personal coveted collection of books and photos to the DCHS. He created the 1890 Photo Studio at Stonefield Village in Cassville, Wisconsin, operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. He was on the board of curators for Circus World Museum and the Wisconsin Historical Society, and was a founding board member of the League of Historic Theatres. John was well known in the community as a lecturer and presenter regarding all aspects of local and state history. For decades, he was asked to speak to local groups and schools, sharing his love of Dunn County and Wisconsin history. A lecturer on the Native American tribes of Western Wisconsin, he also participated in the archeological dig of the Indian Mounds in Wakanda Park only days before the mounds were permanently covered by the rising waters of the lake. John loved Dunn County, and was always looking for opportunities to showcase its history and riches. His many published books, booklets, maps, and pamphlets demonstrate his ability to combine his talents/passions of writing, drawing, and history to serve the greater good. His gift of promoting Menomonie once led him to send a telegram to the Johnny Carson Show suggesting that Carson perform his magic act at the Dunn County Fair. Carson read the telegram on his show! After a fire destroyed the Tainter Lake home in 1963, John designed the first A-Frame home in the county in which the Russell children grew up. The family enjoys rich memories of 20-foot Christmas trees (to fit into that A-frame!), many hours of swimming and canoeing, and singing around the campfire on the banks of Lake Tainter. He will be remembered as a beloved father and grandfather, who, along with Lou, taught his family the joys of life: love of nature, music, history, art, theatre, creativity, and travel. He and Lou instilled in their family the importance of benevolence, embraced diversity and open mindedness, and taught their children to practice such inclusiveness. His zest for life never waned; even at the age of 82, he was traveling Europe, while daughters Linda and Cindy and grandchildren Hallie and Andrew, struggled to keep up with him. It is impossible to talk about John without including his wife, Lou. Founded in family and church, John and Lou provided rich opportunities for their family that included annual camping trips (always including a historical connection), Grace Episcopal Church events, Red Cedar 4-H activities, and expanding cultural experiences found in such places as Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, New York City, and Europe. John and Lou were steadfast partners in all they did, demonstrating an unfailing loyalty and commitment to their community. From building the photography business, holding memberships at various community organizations, and being proud members of Grace Episcopal Church, he and Lou were exemplariness in demonstrating leadership, loyalty, and dedication to their community. The love, support, and recognition he received from Dunn County citizens -- and the city of Menomonie in particular - sustained John his entire life. He drew strength and inspiration from the area’s rich history and natural beauty and the people he encountered while he worked at capturing the essence of the area that he so loved. His self appointed mission was to reflect those images and stories back to his community. John is survived by his children: Linda, New York, NY; Jeff (Linda), Madison; Cindy Russell Smith (Stephen), Sobieski; and Steve (Kobi Shaw), Colfax. He is further survived by five grandchildren: Mackenzie (Platteville), Hallie (New York, NY), Andrew (Oshkosh), and Tate and Quinn (Colfax). In addition, he is survived by several cousins, nieces and nephews. John is preceded in death by his parents Doris E. and Cecil M. Russell and his beloved wife of fifty years, Flora Lou Amthor, son-in-law Paul Stotler, his sister, Barbara Denke, and brothers Joel and Charles. Services for John are scheduled for Wednesday, September 5th. Family will greet visitors at Grace Episcopal Church (E4357 451st Avenue, Menomonie, Wisconsin) from 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM. A service will follow at 11:00. Burial will be in Cedar Falls Cemetery in the Town of Red Cedar, Dunn Co. WI with military honors by Menomonie Veterans Honor Guard. In addition, a special event, “John Russell: Celebration of a Life Well Lived”, is planned for 2:00 PM on Saturday, September 29th, at the Dunn County Historical Society Museum (1820 Wakanda Street NE, Menomonie). All are welcome. The family expresses gratitude to John’s Grace Episcopal Church family, Rev. Jacalyn Broughton, The Neighbors of Dunn County staff, his friends at Dunn County Historical Society (especially Director Frank Smoot), the staff of Inclusa of Dunn County, and the kindness and expertise of Sridhar Thirumalai, MD. Mostly, the family expresses appreciation to Menomonie and Dunn County citizens --- the thousands of people who supported and valued John’s efforts to keep Dunn County history alive through stories and photographs. That is what kept him engaged in his passions; that is what gave his life meaning. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Dunn County Historical Society or Grace Episcopal Church.
On August 30, 2018, John Macauley Russell, beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, son, and “Menomonie’s Native Son” passed away. His family was with him. John was born on June 23, 1925 in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Other... View Obituary & Service Information
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