Visiting Hours Slideshow

MATTHEW 11:28-30

by Cody Russell
Anthony Richard Russell, 59, known as Tony by most, passed on April 17, 2023 atMaine General Medical Center in Augusta, Maine following courageous battleswith rheumatoid arthritis, lung cancer, and pneumonia.
Tony was born on April 30, 1963 in Bennington, Vermont, the son of StanleyRichard Russell. Tony spent most of his childhood in Readsboro, Vermont andgraduated from Whitingham High School in 1981. He married Ilene (Farrington) in1987 at the Jacksonville Community Church. They started and raised their family inReadsboro. Tony and his family moved to Gardiner, Maine in 2002.
Tony started working at a young age, beginning with groundskeeping atReadsboro cemeteries. He worked at the Vermont Chair Shop while in HighSchool, and spent some years working at Mount Snow. After graduating heworked at the Deerfield Glassine Paper Mill. Tony always loved working outside,and after the Glassine closed down he began a long career in construction. Heworked as a laborer and heavy equipment operator for the Towns of Readsboroand Whitingham and as a utility worker, heavy equipment operator, and foremanfor Bemis Line Construction in Jacksonville. After moving to Maine, Tony worked asa crusher operator for Crooker Construction at their facilities in Whitefield andTopsham. Tony was always a very dedicated and hard-working employee whocontinued working as long as his body would allow, up until a few weeks beforehis passing.
Tony, a devoted father and husband, enjoyed spending his free time with hisfamily and their pets, working on improvements to the family home, and cooking.He was a fan of New England sports and enjoyed watching the Bruins, Patriots,and Red Sox. Tony was predeceased by his father Stanley and his sisters Debbieand Robin. He is survived by his wife of over 35 years, Ilene; his daughter, Tanya; hisson, Cody; his sisters Kim, Lisa, and Karen; his brother Michael; as well as manyaunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.
Ilene Russell's Eulogy
My mother says I was smitten with Tony Russell in kindergarten Sunday School. I always did think he was quite something. Even when we were little he seemed old. Tony Russell was born old. He loved the Fall, the time of cool air and bright colors. He was a “worker man”, a true old Vermonter, a very active man. He relished working outside and performed hard, physical labor his whole life.

When we were dating, his father asked me, “What do you see in him? Why do you like him, why not somebody else?” I saw a lot of guys before him, but with Tony, I finally found a guy I could give my heart and soul to and never want it back again. I always thought his talents were obvious. I watched what he did, what he said, (which wasn’t much) and how he interacted with other people (always on the outskirts, never in the middle). He had 17 nieces and nephews at that time. He cherished little kids, a major requirement for me, and we spent hours finding the right toys for them every Christmas. His work boots were worn and dirty, his hands were calloused even back then, and he wore only black or blue T-shirts with jeans. One day at my grandmother’s he said he could change the oil in my car for me. This was a plus, because I hated that job. My father, who was a mechanic, insisted his girls learn how to do the simple maintenance of their vehicles. I thought to myself, “Boy, if he can do this, maybe I won’t have to anymore.” On another day, we went to Zayre’s and bought a couple of Huffy bikes. He assembled them at his house and rode mine down Bosley Hill, all the way up Readsboro Mountain, through Whitingham Village to the Crossroad, to deliver it to me at my grandmother’s farm. So, not only could he take things apart, he could put them back together to make them work and he was ambitious; 2 more pluses.

When he took me out, we might eat at McDonald’s and go to the movies. We couldn’t go out all the time because he was paying through the nose for his DWI and the brand new car that he had just bought before the lay-offs. That meant hot dates to the automatic car wash, hardware stores, or watching him fall trees in his dad’s back 40 on a Saturday afternoon. If he landed one on himself, I was supposed to run back to the house to call “368-2323- saves lives for you and me”. (There was no 9-1-1) 

Another thing I liked about him was that he was kind, even in his rough ways. Not at all flowery sweet, but sensitive to the needs of others. He stuck up for people less fortunate. I knew the story of him sitting next to a little boy being teased on the bus. The bullying was turned away, just from his presence. My Aunt Sheila, who lost her ability to speak due to cerebral palsy, always gave him a big clap and wave  “Hi”. He was quiet and didn’t like crowds, but he would come to the family gatherings if I asked. Seeing all this, I knew I had found a gem. He really was a “diamond in the rough”, as they say. He was the just-right-guy for me.

One night I drove up to his folks for Christmas. Before I could get one foot out the door, he shoved himself into the car, saying in that gruff voice, “Move over”. So I scrambled to the passenger side. He stepped on the gas, we sped down the road, and he skidded into the opening near the cemetery. He thrust this little box at me and said, “Would ya marry me? I won’t make ya rich, but I’ll work hard. So I won’t make ya poor either.” I really wanted to tell him that I needed time to think about it. But I knew Tony Russell. He’s only gonna ask once. If I didn’t say “yes” right away, he’d never ask again. So I said “yes”, and we drove back to the house where everyone wanted to see the ring. Evidently, Tony’s nephew overheard Tony telling his brother of his plan. Worried about the 4-year old spilling the beans, he had to race me away for the “big ask”. The ring cost all he had to spare ($200) from the JCPenny store in Bennington. It was small, which worked for my tiny fingers, but the size always bothered Tony.But I always felt and told him many times…. “It's not the size of the stone that matters, it’s the size of the heart that gives it to you.” 

10 days after we were married, my grandmother died . I cried all night and many days. Tony came with me to her funeral and many family funerals over the years. He would bring our kids, then take them home when they’d had enough. He loved our son and daughter more than anyone. He would break the bank every Christmas and birthday for them. For each other, we’d talk before each holiday. Would we buy for each other this time, or skip ourselves for the kids? I love that he could go without, for their benefit.

As our kids grew, he did so many things with them.  He loved taking them ice skating on Sadawga and even though he hated swimming he went with us once. That year the temperatures warmed up fast after the spring run-off. The heat seemed unbearable so I convinced him to go swimming in the river at the Lion’s park. Since he hated swimming he kept lollygagging around, going back and forth to the car to get something he “forgot”. In the meantime, Tanya was already halfway across the river, before Cody and I got in. While I was still getting my sandals off, I was telling Cody to be careful because the water was higher today and moving faster. Next thing I knew, the current swirled around him, sweeping him away from me. I managed to jump in and get underneath him, but the water swirled me around too. All I could do was keep pushing him up, hoping I had his head above water. Finally down river, I managed to get my feet lodged between two smaller rocks at the bottom. I screamed at Tanya to get out of the water. She was already scrunched atop a big rock in the middle of the river. She froze, staring at our predicament. In the meantime, Tony’s still back and forth to the car. He hadn’t even got to the footbridge yet. He couldn’t hear me hollering for him. Finally, he got down to the water to see the problem. He was so agile that he scampered over the small rocks to a large rock above us, reached down his hand to grab Cody’s arm, and yanked him out of the water. He went back to make sure Tanya got back across to the sand without getting caught where the current was pulling. What a relief that we didn’t get any closer to “Old Bubbly” where you could be sucked through the old culverts. Needless to say we didn’t go swimming for a while after that.

When his father died, we moved to Maine. Every time our kids achieved some accomplishment  he was so happy, so proud. He worked long hours. Even though he loved working outside, he didn’t want them to be laborers, breaking their backs for a living. He hated sitting indoors and listening to speeches, but he went to all of their events. That’s how much he loved them. 

All of our married life, he fixed so many things at our house. He put on the entire metal roof himself, after buying a book from Barnes and Noble, redid the wiring for the bathroom,   installed a new shower after watching you-tube videos, built a brick patio for us and felled the maple tree of the front yard through both my lilac bushes. That’s just to name a few. I’ll miss him doing his projects, even though I hated the mess and fretted over the outcome. He loved mowing and shoveling; sometimes we shoveled together. I envied his smooth swift style: “swoosh, swoosh swoosh”, as he cleared the hill in 10 minutes or less. He thought it was nothing, but I considered that slick shovel-handling the coolest skill. I always wanted to clear the path that quickly, with minimal effort, but I was never so adept. 

By the way, just a note about that little ring that he gave me so many years ago………
It lasted 30 years, the replacement broke in two pieces after only 3 or 4. Just like that first little ring, Tony was a long-lasting and durable guy who worked HARD, during terrible winter storms on live wire, plowing up and down steep, sharply curved roads tight to the village houses, in 0-below windy weather, in the baking sun, up and down the mountain sides, up and down utility poles, up and down the quarry, up and down the cat-walks, underneath the screens. He worked for long hours and never complained. You could always count on him. I used to call him the energizer bunny, because he just kept going no matter how hard things got or how run-down he looked. He told me recently, “If you want to build your strength, then when you feel like you need to stop,  do just one more.” We all wish we could have just one more day with him.   
Tanya Russell's Eulogy
My Dad – The Story of a Laborer

If my dad were here, he would be in the back of the room, next to the door. He didn’t like crowds or small spaces. As a modest man, he didn’t want people making a big deal about him. He never thought he was anything special, and that’s exactly what made him so special. He would have wanted something short and simple, but that’s hard to do when there’s just so much to be said about him.

My dad was a rugged laborer. He could do anything, and he was fearless. He was only 59 when he passed, just 2 weeks before his 60th birthday. He worked through pain and treacherous weather conditions without ever complaining. He kept working even if he was getting heat stroke or frostbite. If he said simply it was hot or cold, you knew it was bad out. But my dad liked working outdoors, even when it was hard. When I was a kid, he was gone for weeks in New York working the ice storm of 98, soaked to the bone trying to restore the power lines. My dad was good at fixing things. In Maine as a rock crusher operator for Crookers, he climbed quickly all over the machinery, up and down the catwalks to keep the crusher running. My dad was the strongest, most resilient person I’ve ever known, and I wish he would have believed me when I told him that. When he got Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and causes extreme pain from inflammation, he kept working. With a disease that causes disability, he continued to work 50-60 hour weeks in hard, physical labor through all weather conditions. He stopped wearing his Fitbit after we discovered he was getting 23,000 steps per day at work. Can you imagine walking 23,000 steps a day, when every step was painful? Then he would still come home and mow the lawn and walk the dogs. He was determined not to allow anything to stop him from doing what he wanted to do, even if he didn’t feel good. Everyone could see that he was a tough guy to the end.

I always worried about my dad being out in such extreme weather conditions. One year I gave him a very nice overcoat because I wanted him to be warm at work. It was a green plaid, and the inside was a thick, soft white fluff. I noticed he wasn’t wearing it, and one day I asked him if he didn’t like it. He told me he did like it, but that it’s too nice for him to wear to work. He always came home from work with dust covered clothes full of holes from tears and welding burns, and often smelled of motor oil.

It seemed like the odds were always stacked against my dad. He took everything that life threw at him and kept pushing forward. He would say that he didn’t have any luck, but he worked hard for everything he had. Dad was honest and straightforward. He never tried to sidestep or talk his way out of anything. “Don’t lie about anything, just tell the truth,” Dad would tell me. He always did what he knew was right.

All Dad wanted to do was work, walk his dogs, mow his lawn, and spend time with his family. No matter what I was doing, he would come over to help me. He got excited about what I was doing, even if it wasn’t something he would be interested in otherwise. He helped me rig a pulley system for my bird feeder so I could photograph them. He climbed up high in the tree branches to get it just right. He was excited with me when the little baby sparrows came. “I saw those little fellas this morning,” Dad would tell me with a smile. “They’re teeny little things.” He knew how much I loved looking for ducks and geese, so when we went walking the dogs, he would look for them too. Dad liked running with Buddy and I would walk Sophie. Dad would usually see the birds before me because Buddy is faster than Sophie so he would point them out to me. Once they came chasing me to let me know the geese were gathered at the opposite side of the landing and that I was headed the wrong way.

Dad was fast too. He played soccer, basketball, and baseball in high school at Whitingham. He taught me and my brother, Cody, how to play. He trained me for the mile run in school. We ran down to the watering spring and back together. I earned my President’s Physical Fitness patch because of him, but I was never as fast as he was.

Dad loved when I cooked shrimp scampi for him. He would come out to help me with the shrimp and the noodles while I cut up the veggies and started the sauce. I usually forgot about the garlic bread, but he would remember to put it in the oven while I made the Caesar salad. He also taught me how to flip pancakes and fried eggs. He showed me how to scramble eggs without burning them, even though I’m still bad at it. My eggs always stick to the pan, but his never did. 

He taught me how to parallel park. The only times I have tried it since getting my license were with him. He stays completely calm and never raises his voice at me. He tells me when to cut the wheel and how far. I’ll never be able to parallel park again without him. My dad could drive anything. He drove 18 wheelers from the Vermont mountains to the big city of Boston. He operated heavy machinery including a backhoe, excavator, grader and skid steer. He drove over winding dirt roads and steep mountainsides. He plowed in the winter and always got the hardest routes in the snow covered Vermont mountains. When I was a kid, I got to ride in a plow truck and go up in a bucket truck with him. As the daughter of a plowman, I have never wished for a white Christmas. Snow on holidays meant dad would not be with us to enjoy them. During heavy snow storms, he would be out all day, coming home for only 2 hours of sleep before snow-blowing the driveway and heading back out at midnight. He would do this for days on end if it kept snowing. We got used to having Christmas after the actual day, which also meant we shopped the after-Christmas sales. Being with family was always more important than the presents.

My dad and my mom were the perfect team. They worked together to make sure we had a good life. Growing up my mom made all my doll clothes and the decorations for their houses. My dad built me a massive dollhouse out of plywood and together they made furniture from wood blocks. They super glued fabric to the blocks and my mom made them the cutest blankets and puffy pillows. Each room had its own colorful sets. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and materials are cheaper than finished products and brand names. That dollhouse was better than any pink plastic thing you could buy at the mall. It was much bigger too. It’s only too bad we couldn’t fit it into the U-Haul when we moved to Maine.

My dad’s not in any of the pictures from my high school graduation because he was the photographer. He photographed all our family vacations and holidays, though mom would try to get some photos of him too. He got a camcorder so he could record our vacations as well. We loved going to Catskill Game Farm to see the animals as kids. He rescued us from the goats who tried to push us over to get the crackers. Those goats were aggressive. Later we loved exploring the coast of Maine together. He would walk along the beaches with us and help us look for shells and crustaceans left on shore after the tide went out. The best whale watch we ever went on was when the whale that swam right up under the boat, just before the tape ended. 

My dads father gave him his old 35mm Minolta camera. When I became interested in photography in high school, he started letting me use it. When I finally needed to upgrade to a digital camera for my classes, my dad and my mom drove 45 minutes to Hunts Photo in Portland with me to pick one out. He went to all my art shows. Dad was always so proud of me. He always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. “Stop worrying about what everybody else thinks, you know what you’re doing,” Dad would tell me. He was the subject of countless art projects of mine over the years. He never understood my fascination with him, but he always humored me because he wanted to help me. 

No matter what my dad had going on, if he saw that I needed help with something he would come over to do what he could for me. He never waited for me to ask, he just saw the opportunity and jumped in. He helped me make alterations to my photo frames and wire hang them for exhibits. He helped me fight with my printer to get my large format prints for critique. When I finished the workshops I took at Maine Media, he came out to Rockport with my mom and brother to enjoy a celebratory lobster dinner and watch the slide show of the work I made that week. He helped me dig deeper holes for the new plants in my gardens. When my garden was getting eaten by mysterious critters, he got some wire to surround it with a fence. My Brussel sprouts and lettuce stopped getting eaten so we could enjoy them. He was so impressed with my cucumbers, even when they took over my garden and strangled what was left of the Brussel sprouts. My dad loved to eat cucumbers.

Every winter dad told me to be careful driving. He reminded me to slow down on bridges and off ramps because they freeze first. He told me to be careful of areas of ledge on the highway for the same reason. When I was in a car accident off the highway, he got to the hospital as fast as he could with mom to make sure I was ok. Much later when I was trying to figure out if my backpack was going to be the right size for my work travel, he went searching to find his. He was struggling to breathe then, but he still thought of me first. “Never travel alone,” Dad would tell me, “and always get gas during the day.”

My dad always knew exactly what to say to me to make me feel better. He always knew when I was stressed out or nervous, which is all the time, and he would say to me, “What are you worried about? Stop twirling your hair. You worry too much. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.” He was a quiet man, so when he spoke people listened, and what he said mattered. He had a way with words and always said exactly what he meant in the simplest way possible. 

“You guys were the world to him, you were his world” his good friend and coworker Craig told my mom. Everything dad did, he did for us. He did whatever he could to make sure my brother Cody and I had an easier life than he had. Dad was our whole world too.

A Video of Life - The Tony Russell Story
A few words from Ilene Russell:
I want to thank you all for coming today. People call these events by many names: celebration of life, memorial service, but Tony would say just call it what it is: A funeral. As an extremely private, modest guy, he would never tell you all these things about himself and would probably think we’ve done too much. We tried to keep this “Tony-approved”, which would be “short and simple”. But we think it’s important to tell those things he did that made him a great provider, husband, father, son, brother, cousin, co-worker and friend.  
Back to Top