1925 to 2020
Milton's Unsung Hero
There are so many unsung heroes who have lived their whole life in the Town of Milton. They were born here, they went to school here, they went to war here and they died here. The recent passing of Richard “Dick” Russell on August 29, 2020 was one of those heroes.
Born at the Milton Hospital on March 30, 1925 to Richard and Viola Russell, Dick lived his whole life in Milton.
During the last years of Dick’s life, we had many discussions and he would laugh about how he was drafted right out of high school. Running across the field to get his diploma and leaving that night by train for the US Army and off to Germany.
His stories about the WWII were riveting. After being shot numerous times and laying in the mud barely alive he would be cared for by a German family who saved his life. He was brought to a field hospital and fought a life and death struggle to survive. He would be transported to the states and after 6 months in the hospital he went home.
He married his childhood sweetheart Alice Kenny. He would laugh, “I don’t know what she ever saw in me.” He would build a home on Gibbons Street and raise four children, Lynn, Karen, Richie and Adam.
A salesman at heart he sold newly developed style coffee machines to restaurants. He would later teach his style of sale to hundreds of salesmen throughout the country until he retired.
Russell would talk about the 1955 flood of the Pine Tree Brook when 15 inches of rain fell in 2 days and flooded all the homes along its banks from Blue Hill Parkway all the way to the Neponset River. Having the only boat in the area he would rescue many families from their flooded homes. He would forever be remembered as the only person to ride a speed boat down the Pine Tree Brook.
Dick was different than most because he knew how to get things done. In 1997 he and his good friend Pam Dorsey started the Pine Tree Brook Neighborhood Association (PTBNA). This was the beginning of PTBNA’s long working friendship with the Town of Milton. Many meetings were held in his living room with Chief Kevin Mearn, DPW’s Walter Heller and Representative Walter Timilty. He was known for his negotiation abilities and could “talk a cat off a fish truck.” Through support from Senator Ted Kennedy’s office and the State Legislators the PTBNA received thousands of dollars in grants to clean up the brook, including building two bridges over the Pine Tree Brook.
Another concern close to his heart was the trauma that children would experience during tragic events such as domestic violence. PTBNA worked with the Milton Police and several organizations as they started Milton Cares With Bears program to comfort children in crises. It was widely accepted, and they soon ran out of Teddy Bears. This is when his salesmanship ability took over. He convinced TJ Maxx to donate 600 Teddy Bears to their program which was put into action with police, fire, EMT’s and Milton Hospital’s emergency room.
The program was noticed and would be implemented nationwide. Dick and the PTBNA would be commended by Milton’s Chief of Police Kevin Mearn, “You and the members of PTBNA can be assured that your bears have put a smile to more than one child’s face.” The program would eventually be called 911 Bear Program.
Dick would leave an active role in PTBNA to care for his wife Alice until she passed away several years ago.
In later years Dick could be seen riding his bike around the brook area stopping by his neighbors to say hello. Because of health issues Dick would move from his home of 70 years to the Fuller House and cared for by his children.
I visited Dick regularly until we can only talk on the phone because of the virus. I talked with Dick two nights before he passed away. Even though he was ill he was still always upbeat and concerned for others. Our conversation ended with him saying, “My children are wonderful, and I have had a good life.”
Yes, Dick you certainly had a good life and we have all benefited because of it.