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Pat and Russ Russell are named Oyster Festival Grand Marshals

Pat and Russ Russell

by Larry Chowning

As one walks into the home of Pat and Russ Russell in Urbanna, there is a little sign on the wall that tells it all: “I was not born in Urbanna; but I got here as soon as I could!”

It took the Russells a while to get here but once they did they have made a remarkable positive impact on the Urbanna/Middlesex community. So much so that the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation has named them grand marshals of the 61st Annual Urbanna Oyster Festival that will be Friday and Saturday, November 2-3. 

Russ, 92, was born in Nebraska and Pat, 90, in Norfolk. They met in Norfolk in 1947 when Russ was in the Navy, and they got married in April of 1948. Russ spent his first career as a Navy pilot and retired from the Navy at the age of 45. He then went to work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), stationed first in Seattle and finally in Washington, D.C. 

Around 1973 Russ and Pat started thinking about a place to spend the rest of their lives. Pat had a sister living in Deltaville and they started looking for a place close enough that there would not be any long distance phone calls, said Pat.

The word got out they were looking for something in Middlesex County and Aubrey Hall called with the perfect spot on Urbanna Creek. “I flew down from Washington to see the property,” said Russ. “I flew over it and when I landed I found Aubrey, and we closed on the lot in December of 1974,” said Russ.

Russ and Pat continued to live in Washington, D.C., while Russ got a general contracting license that enabled him to buy supplies at contractor prices, and he designed and built the brick house they live in today on Urbanna Creek.

They moved to Urbanna permanently in 1981, and started a life of retirement that has included constant volunteerism within the Middlesex County Public School System (MCPS) and throughout the community.

So much of Russ’ community service has been in partnership with the Middlesex County Kiwanis Club. He joined the local Kiwanis Club in March of 1985 and has been a member for 33 years. He was president of the club in 1987-88.

As part of his outreach, Russ was a primary organizer of the Northern Neck Kiwanis Club in 1989; Middlesex High School Key Club, 1988; St. Clare Walker Builders Club, 1996; and the Middlesex Elementary K-Kids Club, 1998. He faithfully attends all weekly club meetings. He was also in charge of the Middlesex County Kiwanis Club’s oyster booth at the festival for 20 years. 

Russ also was president of the Friends of Urbanna Creek organization that is no longer active. The group monitored water quality on the creek once a week for 10 years as part of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay Citizens Monitoring Program.

Pat got her feet wet as a volunteer when they were living in Washington, D.C. She did volunteer work at a hospital gift shop and she taught the deaf in Sunday School at the Lutheran Church they attended. Many deaf children from nearby Gallaudet University, a university for the education of deaf and hard of hearing, attended Sunday School at the Lutheran Church. “It was a great experience but I have forgotten most of the signs (language) that I knew,” said Pat. “I will tell you this, the deaf are the noisiest people I have ever met.”

When they arrived in Middlesex, Pat started volunteering in the schools, reading to students and helping kindergarten and first grade students. For 26 years, five days a week, she has faithfully volunteered in the school system. Pat and Russ were honored by the school system this year as “Volunteers of the Year.”

Pat and Russ were among the founders of Trinity Lutheran Church in 1993. The church congregation meets Sundays in the Middlesex County Woman’s Club building in Urbanna.

They both delivered Meals on Wheels to the needy in the county and both have served on the American Red Cross Board when the county had an active Red Cross.

“Over the years, Pat and Russ have set an example for all of us as to what being a volunteer can mean to a community,” said Urbanna Oyster Festival chair Joe Heyman. “The Oyster Festival Foundation sees what a vital role they have played in making Urbanna and Middlesex County a better place to live and in the positive impact they have made on the lives of the children and young people they have touched. We are delighted to name Pat and Russ Russell our Oyster Festival Grand Marshals for the 61st festival.”

posted 09.06.2018

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