Mary Newman Russell was one month shy of 87 years, when she passed away on March 2, 2008. Mary was born in Watertown, SD, on April 19, 1921, to Ross and Elizabeth Newman. She was 18 months old when Ross took a job as the superintendent of schools in Oskaloosa, IA. It was while she was going to school in Oskaloosa that she met George Russell, her only boyfriend and the man who was to be her husband for sixty-two years. After graduating from Iowa State University in June 1942, Mary and George were married in Oskaloosa and left for Los Angeles to start their new life, stopping for their wedding night at the same hotel in Omaha that Mary’s parents had stayed in on their wedding night, thirty-two years before.
Over the next several years, while living in California, three of their four children were born. Don Russell now lives in Tacoma, WA with his wife Barbara and their six children (Chad, Michelle, Maia, Daniel, Nicholas and Anjuli), Richard (Doug) Russell preceded Mary in death two years ago, and Ann Rodriguez lives in Brownsburg, IN with her husband Ernesto and their two children (Marianne and Ernie). After the family moved back to Iowa in the early ‘50’s, George (Rip) Russell, Jr. was born and now lives in Iowa City, IA with his wife Janis (along with Dickens and Buddy). Mary’s brother-in-law Chuck Russell and his wife Emmy, who have long maintained the family roots, still live in Oskaloosa. Mary’s brother John Newman, also a lifelong resident of Oskaloosa, and her sister Betty Galey, both preceded her in death.
It was while raising her family in Des Moines, IA that Mary began a lifelong love of quilting. After her children were gone from the home, this became a passion. She made and gave quilts to everyone in the family, including the two infamous “twin bed” quilts, which were specially made and dearly stored for the first of her children to get married. Mary happily gave quilts to everyone, which will forever allow us to fondly remember our Nana. It was also in Des Moines where Mary devoted much of her time to the philanthropic sisterhood organization of the PEO. She was a lifelong member of PEO and spent many hours helping with its charitable work.
Perhaps Mary’s greatest asset was her ability to make people happy. She did this in a very simple way, she herself was always happy. Mary would always greet you with a truly radiant smile, making you feel as though you were the single best thing that had happened to her all day. She had a magical laughter that could always be heard above the crowd and which made her easy to find, because she was constantly laughing. No matter how your day was going, just being around Mary made everything feel lighter. Everyone that met her could not help but love her. This is a truly wondrous gift that few people possess, and one, which Mary happily gave to everyone she knew.
After their children were away from home, Mary and George moved to Arizona where George became the architect for the State of Arizona. After retiring and living in Sun City West for several years, they decided to move to the Northwest to be closer to two of their children. When George died of a fall four years ago, Mary’s son Doug moved in to help care for her. By then, she had become wheelchair dependent and was having an increasingly difficult time maintaining a household. As fate would have it, Doug was diagnosed with cancer within a year and Mary was once again called upon to help take care of her son. Between the two of them, they did a good job of keeping the house and caring for one another. Don had the privilege of helping first his parents and then his mother and brother, over the last several years.
When Doug died two years ago, Mary moved into an apartment at Charlton Place, where she was able to receive the assistance she needed in her daily living. The last two years of her life were spent at Charlton Place and she loved it. She met many good friends, all of whom will be missed and who will miss her. She considered this to be her home and everyone who lived there part of her extended family.
Mary is moving back to Oskaloosa to be with her husband, her son and the rest of her family. She will be on a shady knoll, overlooking a small lake with swans swimming lazily over the surface. It is a beautiful spot for her to spend the rest of time, in the company of her family.
Arrangements by Edwards Memorial Center 253-566-1008