In loving memory of

James Miller Russell
August 13, 1931 - April 24, 2023

James M. Russell died April 24, 2023, at Cascade Memory Care in Rochester; he was 91 years old. Jim was born in Glasgow, Scotland on Aug. 13, 1931. He always said his timing wasn't great since it was during the early days of the depression followed by World War II. Life in Glasgow was difficult, but he never felt deprived. He was a curious boy who remained curious throughout his life, always looking for the "why" behind the "what."

His young boyhood was spent in Glasgow after which his family moved to Stockholm where Jim spent his teen years. He described that time as idyllic because Sweden had not been affected by the war. After the grim years of the depression's shortages and the intense bombing by the Germans during the war, he described his life in Sweden as Shangri-la.

One friend on his Swedish baseball team was a young American soldier named Lloyd Speer, who worked at the U.S. Embassy. One day he asked if Jim had ever thought of going to America. Jim said he had not but it sounded like a great adventure, so yes, he would like to go to America.

At that time, emigrants to the U.S. needed a citizen-sponsor to enter the country. Lloyd's father, who lived in Des Moines, Iowa agreed to sponsor Jim. A second law influenced Jim's entry to the U.S. Before he left Sweden, he was told that he would be subject to the military draft. He arrived in Des Moines in early September of 1951 and was in Army basic training in January 1952. For two years he was at Fort Meade, Maryland. But he didn't mind being a soldier because the Army's GI bill paid for two college degrees.

During the three months Jim spent in Des Moines before his active military duty, he worked in a sporting goods store - the perfect job for an athlete. One night a friend invited Jim to go with him to a dance being held at a local school. There he met a young student nurse: MaryJane Doyle. They corresponded throughout his time in Maryland, and a year following his discharge they were married in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1955.

Immediately following his discharge in 1954, he enrolled at Drake University. At one point, early in his education, he fell under the spell of an amazing history professor, and history became his lifelong passion. After completing his BA and MA in history, he took a job teaching American History at John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minnesota, in the fall of 1963. His love of learning never waned. During his career he received two Endowment for the Humanities scholarships to study the origins of Christianity and Christianity in the Roman State - one at the University of Texas and one at Princeton University as well as a summer program at Oxford University.

After teaching at John Marshall, he joined the faculty at (then) Rochester State Junior College in 1966. He often said, "teaching is euphoric," and for him that was true throughout his career. He studied every day, and never went unprepared to any class. While he loved teaching, he also became emersed in school politics. He strongly believed in the philosophy of "being all in" if you were part of something, working to improve it. Five times in the course of his tenure he was elected president of the faculty. He also served on various committees for the local college and for the state level of the faculty association. He retired in August of 1996.

His school was not the only recipient of Jim's talents as a leader. For many years, he worked as a writer for local and state political campaigns (both sides of the aisle), served as a board member of the Rochester Women's Shelter, served at the local and state level of Planned Parenthood, and served the Rochester United Way subcommittees. For several years he wrote a monthly opinion column for the Rochester Post Bulletin, typically on national and international politics and women's issues. Jim also was a member of the Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted Counties Victim Services Program; and he served three terms as a police commissioner for the Rochester Police Department. In his retirement he taught many classes for the RCTC LIFE program and served on its board. Giving back was truly important to Jim Russell.

After the death of MaryJane, Jim found another love of his life in Priscilla (Pixy) Kellogg. They were married in July of 1986 in Stockholm, Sweden. In their retirement Jim and Pixy traveled widely in Europe, "to see the places I talk about." A European trip with Jim was a history lesson every day. They especially loved their travels to Paris. They truly enjoyed each other's company in their 36 years of marriage. Their blended family of 9 children has been a blessing to them and they have welcomed many grandchildren and great-grandchildren to their growing family.

In 2006, following an extensive exploration of her father's family history, his daughter Sheila discovered Jim's unknown half-brother, Peter. Sharing the same father, they met and spent time together comparing their lives. Peter emigrated from England to Chicago a few years after Jim came from Sweden. They were sorry to have lived so close for so many years but knew nothing about each other. Finding each other was a gift.

Jim was preceded in death by an infant son, his wife MaryJane, who died in 1982, his mother Mary Veronica McDermott Russell, sister Olive Russell Thor, brother-in-law Lars Thor, his brother and sister-in-law Peter Theobald (Joan). He is survived by his wife Pixy and children: Brian Russell (Janet Filer), Sheila Russell Perry (Jim), Laurie Kellogg Solari (Michael), Colin Russell (Trudy), Claire Russell Foley (Brian), Ian Russell, Stephannie Kellogg Keller, Alec Russell (Vicki Lynn Johnson), Angus Russell (Mandy Ruggeri) Shoira Sadikova, an exchange student from Tajikistan who became a daughter, and a much-loved sister-in-law, Kathleen Doyle, OSB. Jim had 20 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

The family thanks the Mayo Clinic Hospice team and the care givers at Cascade Creek for their thoughtful and generous care. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be sent to The RCTC Foundation LIFE Program, Rochester Planned Parenthood, or a charity of the donor's choice.

A memorial service will be held at 2:00pm on Saturday, May 6, 2023, at Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes (5421 Royal PL NW) with visitation one hour prior to the service. Inurnment will take place at a later date.


Ann wrote on May 6, 2023:

"Dear uncle Jim, Your niece Ann here from the UK. It is 1.18 am here on Sunday morning, the early hours and I have just watched your very moving Funeral Service. Over here we have been watching the coronation of King Charles the third. The irony has not escaped me that your funeral was held the same day as our King was crowned. Had you lived to see this day and been of sound mind you would have phoned me up and given me a long history on the royal family. Sadly we all met far too late in life. You never got to meet my father Jack brother to uncle Peter. You had to rely on my childhood memories of my grandad, your father. We all still bear the scars of the decisions he made. You found a new extended family in the UK, especially with our lovely Dorrie who I never knew existed before I met you and now we are so close. We formed a deep love and attachment with you and Pixie even though there was an ocean between us. You visited us and we came to Rochester. Then we all met in Paris next to Notre Dame. Such precious memories. We are going to miss you. We send you to heaven with love and prayers. Thank you for being my uncle. Love Ann x "

Kris Thompson Norland wrote on May 2, 2023:

"I was also very lucky to have Mr. Russell as a history instructor twice...first at John Marshall High School and then at Rochester State Junior College. I was spellbound during his classes - hung on every word - he made history so exciting! In high school, my girlfriend had his class in the morning and I had his class in the afternoon - many times we spent our lunch hour talking about the lecture for the day - it was very special to share what we had learned. Hope our grandchildren have a Mr. Russell in their lives. He was the best! Kris Thompson Norland"

Pam Nelson wrote on May 1, 2023:

"I had Professor Russell for SPEECH at RCTC a long time ago and still remember how enthusiastic he was. He made a course that most of us find difficult, very enjoyable. I always looked forward to his instruction. What a great guy, and interesting to learn about his background."

Don Supalla wrote on Apr 27, 2023:

"I was especially lucky to have Mr. Russell as a history instructor twice...first at John Marshall High School and then at Rochester State Junior College. Jim was smart, came to class prepared, captured our attention, peaked our interest and genuinely cared for each and every student. Later in life, I had the privilege of being his colleague when we worked together at Rochester Community and Technical College. Jim truly was a gentleman and a scholar and I'm forever grateful that our paths intersected. Sending Pixy and family thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy."

Rhonda R Jensson wrote on Apr 27, 2023:

"I know this is rather lengthy, but I was so honored to know and learn from Mr. Russell. I was lucky enough to have been a student of his while I attended RCTC in the 90's (then known as RCC). I myself have a deep interest in history and at that time I thought I'd like to teach it. Naturally, I started taking lots of history courses. My first class was about ancient Greece and he was the instructor. I was hooked. I took every single history class he taught, some more than once. There was always more to learn. He brought history alive. He would tell stories of the places we studied, and they meant so much more since he had actually SEEN so many of them. He would show photos, slides, or even bring in pieces of art or pottery he had picked up on his travels. It made the subject matter so much more accessible. I developed a deep respect for Mr. Russell (to this day, I cannot call him "Jim") and would often pester him during his office hours to talk about history, books, or get help on an assignment. I remember his office wasn't very large and his desk seemed literally wedged in between a file cabinet and several bookcases filled to bursting. His writing assignments were challenging, to put it mildly, but well worth it. He wasn't the sort of teacher that just wanted you to regurgitate facts, dates, names. He really DID want to know the "why" behind the what-when-where and he wanted his students to know too. He wanted us to dig, to question, and to understand how political decisions, wars, etc.. made in one country could affect events across the whole globe--to be able to connect dots. I learned more from him than just about any teacher I've had before or since. He was always full of encouragement, and I enjoyed the subtle humor he often used in the classroom and in casual conversation. He was the sort of teacher I wanted to be. I never did go on to teach. Instead, I was hired by RCTC not long after he retired, working in another area I love--the fine arts--and have been here 26 years. I always enjoyed talking with Mr. Russell and thought he was a truly great man---a true gentleman. Please accept my deepest condolences but take comfort in knowing how well loved and respected Mr. Russell was--and forever will be. He touched many lives and that is his immortal and enduring legacy. Blessings to you all. "

Joe Allsen wrote on Apr 26, 2023:

"I had him as a prof in 1988. He was the most engaging and charismatic lecturer I ever had. "

Chrisanne Pieper wrote on Apr 26, 2023:

"Jim was such a great supporter of RCTC?s LIFE Program and taught many classes. He was warm, caring, and a true gentleman. He will be missed. Hugs to Pixy (World?s Best Caregiver) and family!"

Michael Pesch wrote on Apr 26, 2023:

"As a student at RCC in 1974, I took a Russian history course from Professor Jim Russell. He was the first professor who caught my rapt attention and helped plant the seed for me becoming a professor. He was so passionate about history, and he was a natural storyteller. His Scottish accent, intelligence, and gentle, accessible demeanor, invited everyone to join him in that passion for learning. Mike Pesch"

Connie Hatch wrote on Apr 25, 2023:

"I worked with your mother ,Mary Jane and became good friends with both of your parents. Your mother was like a mentor to me as she loved her patients so much. I would see your father out in public in past years. He always remembered me. My memories are fond and dear to me. Angus, I still treasure the time we visited on the phone. I I I I would come on May 6 but have a church commitment . "