This past Sunday, I lost my grandfather to the sands of time. As he would say, his ticker had ran out. I hate that he’s gone, but I’m glad he didn’t linger long. It’s strange how different the world feels when you lose someone you love, and more so when it is someone you so admired. Papa and I were never as close as I would have liked but the mutual love and respect between us was very strong. I was the favorite (only) grandson and Papa reminded me of that each time we spoke. My father, his father (Papa Lamont), and Papa Harvey are the three men I have most looked to over the years for the example of what it means to be man. Far from perfect though I may be, I have always had good examples from the countless stories I’ve heard over the years. I find it funny that as I get older, the stories get better and more relevant. I am able to put my struggles, troubles, chaos and triumphs over the years into context and now they seem pretty much inline with the development of the paternal characters after which I attempt to model myself.
Tomorrow my cousin Jessica and I will deliver our Papa’s eulogy. I’m not as nervous as I would expect. I’m honored to be able to do it and hope Papa would be proud of Jessica and I. I miss you Papa.
Updated: Here is the eulogy that my cousin Jessica and I delivered during the service:
My name is Ken woodruff, and I am colleens son and Harvey’s grandson. On behalf of the entire Russell family, we’d like to thank you all for coming today to celebrate the life of Buzz.
Harvey Andrew “Buzz” Russell, or Papa as we know him, was born in 1929 as the 4th child of 6. He was married for almost 63 years, had 5 kids, 7 grandkids, 6 (1/2) great grandkids, and countless friends & loved ones, many of which are here today.
My name is Jessica Boland, and I am Joanns daughter and one of papas granddaughters. Our Papa was a bold man who’s voice could be heard for miles away. If you asked him, he’d tell you its from growing up on the Indian reservation – after all, he was born in a leaky teepee. And to get to Indian school each day, he and his brother Stu walked uphill both ways in 6 1/2 feet of snow – sharing a pair of shoes that his Mom had chewed from a deer skin. Don’t worry though, they made sure to trade shoes at the top of the hill so their other foot could get warm.
After that hardening childhood, tough as nails Papa did his patriotic duty and joined the army at the ripe age of 16. When he got back, he swept Gramma off her feet and they married just 4 short weeks later and over the years were blessed with five kids. As much as papa loved all of us, the love he had for his wife Patt, our gramma, was evident to all who knew him. Whether it was on their morning walks together, at their bible study, or watching the squirrels in the backyard, they were inseparable.
Over the last few days, we’ve all shared a lot of favorite Papa stories. We want to take a few minutes and share a few with you.
When his eldest daughter Colleen was about 15 and brought a boy to the house for the first time, by sheer coincidence I’m sure, Papa decided that was his shotgun needed cleaning and what better place to do it than on the front porch.
When JoAnn was in college, she decided she wanted to come home for a weekend with some of her girlfriends. The only problem is that there was a blizzard, and the roads were closed. The Ohio state troopers couldn’t convince our Papa to turn around and he just told them “I have to go get my girls” and he did just that, driving them back a few days later when classes started back up.
Alan and Scott made sure that both gramma and papa knew they were always willing to help. In fact, we’ve all heard multiple times Alan say “dad if you need anything, call Scott” and Scott say “mom, if you need anything, just go ahead and call Alan”
The youngest daughter, barbera jean, sure was a tough little monkey. She took papa and gramma to the beach every year, and even got papa to go out boogie boarding in the ocean with her girls Stephanie and jenni at the young age of 72.
When my dad, Patrick came to meet Papa and Gramma to ask for his eldest daughter, Cokie’s hand in marriage, Papa requested a dowery of a horse & 2 blanket. Patrick showed up with 2 baby blankets and a stick horse.
Uncle Stu remembered a time in the oilfields when they were trying to put a pipe in that didn’t quite fit the way they had it positioned. Since we’re in a church, we won’t share with you what papa actually said, but let’s just say that when that chain comes out and knocks Papa 50 feet off the ground – he wasn’t too happy with Uncle Stu. Stu didn’t care, he just laughed and put a bloody Papa in the back of the truck and told him to suck it up on the drive into town to the doctor.
His younger sister Sylvia told us how he got his nickname Buzz. We were hoping for something a little more risqué,
But it was because he always wore a buzz haircut since he was a little boy and the name stuck, even when there want much hair left.
Papa wasn’t scared of much – but one thing he was scared of was snakes. One day, his son Scott found a piece of wood that looked like a snake and threw it towards Papa yelling “Snake! Snake!” Papa started running down the hill away from it and just tumbled down to the bottom of the hill. Scott being Scott, stood at the top of the hill and just laughed!
Papa was a very generous man – One day when Scott’s wife Barbara Ann was working for Papa’s company, he came inside and asked “Is that your car out front?” and she said “well, yes sir it is.” He said “you have bald tires. So, you take it down to the Kohls tire company, put new tires on it, and just charge it to me.”
And then there were the other cars. From Russell Racing with Alan and Scott behind the wheel, to moving down here to the Nascar capital of Moorseville, racing and Russell have always gone hand in hand.
As a grandfather, Papa helped raise and guide each of us. He taught Steph how to walk, potty trained Ally, was ally and my babysitter for a few weeks one summer, and taught both Jenni & Steph how to swim. He made sure Ken knew he was the favorite (okay – and ONLY! grandson), and he told all of us girls that we were his favorite granddaughter – just never in front of another one of us! Then again, he would always tell us how much he loved us and would go through the whole list of his kids & grandkids names until he got to our name.
His love wasn’t just for his own family, but for others he saw who needed some as well. Gramma told us a story that a few years ago, in their neighborhood, there are two little girls down the street who’s parents had split up. A friend of theirs told them that the Dad was struggling as a single Dad, and the girls didn’t have any clean clothes to wear to school. So he tells Gram one day “Gram, we’re going into town to the store.” When she asked why he said “We need to go shopping.” They bought coats, boots, hats, shirts, the works – to make sure they had clean clothes to go to school.
Our Papa shared his love and words of wisdom with all of us: Don’t go where you don’t belong, You can’t get that second back, Don’t ever put someone else’s clothespin in, It is what it is, and don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to tell your papa about or see on the front page of the paper.
We want to thank you all for coming here to share in the joy that was Buzz’s life. He’ll be missed by all here today, and those who were not able to join us. Papa – this isn’t goodbye, but rather, “so long”, and we’ll see you on the other side.