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Dr. Frank Hamer Russell Jr.

In Remembrance
April 23, 1928 – March 3, 2024

Obituary

Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Uncle, Grandfather,
Outdoorsman, Officer, Physician, Visionary, Artist, Builder, Iconoclast

Dr. Frank Hamer Russell Jr. 95, recently of Pittsboro, NC died peacefully at his home on Sunday, March 3, 2024 surrounded by all six of his surviving children.

Frank was born in New York City on April 23, 1928 to Dr. Frank Hamer Russell of Yazoo City, Mississippi and the former Charlotte McCoy of Portsmouth, Ohio.

In 1937, the family moved to Worcester, Massachusetts where Frank attended Burncoat Street Grammar School and graduated from North High School.

In 1951, he graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a BA in Philosophy, Psychology, and Pre-Med. Frank then graduated from the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School as an Ensign and served aboard the USS Pittsburgh (1952–1953) then aboard the USS Randolph (1953–1955) in the Mediterranean 6th Fleet sailing the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. He credited the Navy for training him as a leader and instilling discipline in him. Discipline and critical thinking became core values.

From 1955–1958, Frank studied at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis. His first year of surgical residency was at Bellevue Hospital in New York City followed by four years of residency at Beekman Hospital in downtown New York City. In both his 3rd and 4th years he was named Chief Resident.

In 1963, Frank established his medical practice in General and Trauma Surgery in Port Jefferson, New York. He was on staff at John T. Mather Memorial and St. Charles General Hospitals through 1996. During his professional tenure and for decades after his retirement, Frank was highly respected by colleagues and peers for his skill, tireless work ethic, and dedication to his craft. Frank loved medicine and was a workaholic whose speed and surgical abilities made a difference in the lives of countless people.

As dedicated as he was to his work, Frank thrived in retirement from 1996–2021 in the house he designed and built on the shores of Lake Champlain in East Bridport, Vermont. In 2021, he moved to North Carolina to be closer to his family.

Frank often spoke of the importance of family — both his love of the family he came from as well as the family he created. He always wanted a big family and welcomed children Lesley Love Russell Landis (Hon. Randolph “Randy” Voller) and Kevin Pendleton Russell with his first wife, Harriett Anne Pendleton who preceded him in death. With his second wife, Berenice Margaret Reedholm who survives him, Frank celebrated the births of Frank Hamer Russell IV, John Reedholm Russell (deceased), James Hughes Russell, Christine Elizabeth Russell Hinch (Thomas), and William Reedholm Russell (Bonnie).

Frank’s love and pride extended to his six grandchildren: Olivia Marie Russell, Thomas Emerson Russell, Thomas Jordan Hinch, Lily McCoy Voller (deceased), Brendan Padraig Hinch, and Alyson “Eden” Russell Korcheck.

Frank was preceded in death by his third wife, Elisabeth Kaalund and he delighted in his relationships with her children and grandchildren.

He loved and missed his older brother William Frank Russell and his younger sister Eleanor Eleise Russell Lyon who each preceded him in death by just a few years. Frank often told tales of camping, fishing, and boating with them. During one summer in the late 1930s they found a small boat in a shed in Baldwin, NY. They patched it, painted it with whatever they could find, and named it Rainbow. Later they added a mast, a boom, and a sail sewn by their mother and taught themselves to sail in Baldwin Harbor and the Great South Bay.

This nexus of wind, weather, and water were ingredients in a recipe for relaxation and innovation for Frank as well as a combination of forces that he would work with the rest of his life.

As an adult, Frank grew to love the design and performance of multihull sailboats — so much so that in 1963 he designed and built his own 24’ polynesian style outrigger. A highlight of Frank’s boating life came in 1970 when he served as the ship doctor aboard the sailboat Seasmoke during the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Back in New York in 1970, Frank launched his own 38’ catamaran, Ipo Kai, which went on to win several prestigious races along the East Coast. Though Ipo Kai was indeed fast, the sailboat was designed specifically so that Frank could share his love of sailing with his whole family. Lessons learned and memories made aboard Ipo Kai are cherished to this day.

A self-described “workshop man”, Frank was uniquely creative. He was able to visualize and draw both anatomical, technical, and perspective illustrations in great detail. He loved to design and build airplanes, houses, cars, and boats…so many boats. His homes were filled with the models he built of his latest projects. He often gave gifts he made. For example, to commemorate the birth of each grandchild, he made a cradle that was a small boat which could be used later as a toy box.

Frank was generous to charities supporting indigenous Americans and groups working for social justice. He had an avid interest in the family’s genealogy, held a private pilot’s license, was a member of Experimental Aircraft Association clubs in NY and NC, was a student of the Civil War, participated in numerous entrepreneurial endeavors and loved opera, lobster, champagne, and butter.

Frank Russell was a thinker, a problem solver and an inspiration to all who knew him. Especially when, at age 95, he started building a full scale WWI Fokker D-VIII fighter airplane that was nearing completion.

Those who love him will feel his absence profoundly, especially his unshakable calm and assuring optimism.

The family will hold a private memorial service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in the name of Dr. Frank H. Russell, Jr. to the Chatham Arts Council.

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