Cecil B. Russell, Jr., a veteran of the Army and Air Force and former Ottawa Hills police officer and Toledo Public Schools bus driver, died at his Toledo home Saturday.
He was 81 and suffered from congestive heart failure and had battled cancer since 2000.
Born Jan. 12, 1932, in Norristown, Pa., he lived a life committed to public service. Helping people — whether a neighbor or a complete stranger — was a driving force throughout his life, his family said.
“He was just such a giver. He liked to put everybody else first,” his daughter Kristi Russell said. “It made him happy to help someone else.”
He was in the U.S. military for about a decade, joining in the 1950s. At one point he worked as a refueler.
Ms. Russell said her father was an old-fashioned man who treated everyone with respect.
He was a gentleman, even when his health began to worsen, she said.
“Even when he was sick and the hospice nurse was here, he could barely walk, but he’d get up and walk her to the door,” she said.
Mr. Russell’s son, Mark, said his father had presence whenever he walked into a room. You knew he was there and he’d lend a hand whenever you needed help. Goodwill was the driving force of Mr. Russell’s life.
“I was adopted and he gave me a chance at an awesome life that I probably wouldn’t have got,” said Mark, who was adopted shortly after birth by Mr. Russell and his wife, Glenda.
Mark said his father never discussed why he adopted him, but he believes that his father knew he’d be better off as a part of their family.
The Russell family had an open-door policy, and anyone was welcome in their home, said Cecilie Ricke, Mr. Russell’s other daughter.
Friends and family always knew they’d have a seat at the Russells’ table, she said.
Mr. Russell always made sure his children were provided for, Cecilie said. His family was his center, she added.
“My dad loved making sure we always had the best,” she said. “We had a very simple middle-class life, and growing up, we thought we had everything. Any opportunity that came our way, my dad found a way to make sure we achieved them.”
Mrs. Russell said her husband of 54 years was a quiet man, and his actions showed the kind, loving person he was.
Mr. Russell volunteered with the Red Cross and aided disaster areas in West Virginia when he was young, she said.
He was a life member of the Old News Boys.
Wherever Mr. Russell went, he made friends, his wife said.
He knew the people in the produce department at The Andersons and was friends with the pharmacist at Target — he could strike up a conversation with anyone, she said.
“He was a generous, good man,” his wife said.
Surviving are his wife, Glenda; son, Mark; daughters Kristi Russell and Cecilie Ricke, and eight grandchildren.
Visitation is 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Walker Funeral Home, where a memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Contact Kris Turner at: 419-724-6103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.