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John Archibald Russell, 95, departed this life on Thursday, June 18, 2020, passing peacefully at his home in Selma, Alabama.
Johnny was born on February 27, 1925 in Selma, Alabama to Ruth MacDonald and Edgar Poe Russell. The Russell Family was large and lifelong residents of Dallas County and co-founders of Valley Creek Presbyterian Church. Johnny and his brothers, Edgar Poe Russell, Jr. and Donald MacDonald Russell were known far and wide as the “Russell Boys” and fun and mischief followed them everywhere they went.
He was a product of the Selma City Schools; a star athlete and graduated from Selma High School in 1943. During high school he met, dated and later married his favorite cheerleader, Bootsie Foxworth. They married on February 8, 1944. Johnny was a patriot and he and his brothers served as pilots in WWII. His mother was a florist and he honored her wishes by attending and graduating from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University) with a degree in ornamental horticulture.
After college, the Russells returned to Selma where they raised their family. Johnny served as director of Cemetery Department for the City of Selma for many years. He not only performed exemplary service in this work but also was also a great comfort to the families who had lost their loved ones.
He was known to generations of teachers and children as “Johnny Appleseed” for his love of planting trees thorough out Selma and Dallas County. He planted acorns which sprouted into beautiful live oak trees in the cemeteries and in other parts of the City.
Johnny loved God, his Savior, his family, and honored his ancestors by his support of Valley Creek Presbyterian Church. He loved his Dad (“Heck” Russell) and often talked lovingly about him and how he cared for his Mother and sisters after the death of his Father. He was proud that Heck completed his education on his own while supporting and caring for his family. Johnny honored his father on earth and his Father in Heaven.
He was a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church serving as Sunday School teacher for more than 50 years. Johnny was a devoted member of the choir and noted first tenor soloist for the choir and Selma Civic Chorus. He was also a Deacon and was an Elder Emeritus. He was active in the work of the Session and the governing of the Church. His personal evangelism included the prison mission work, Gideons International, and his “jelly and pickle” ministry.
He could sometimes be exasperating and grandiose but his “body of work and faith” showed a man who used the assets God gave him (personality, humor, teaching) to help others and lead them to Christ. He didn’t get cheated in this life. He lived 95 years, mostly in good health and died beloved by our Russell family and friends.
He is survived by his children, John Archibald Russell, III (Alice), Aliceville, AL., Paul Vaughan Russell, Sr. (Betty) Selma, AL., Ruth Russell Buster (Rusty), Cullman, AL., Robin Russell Duke (Bo), Watkinsville, GA.; his grandchildren, Callen Russell Parsley (Russ), Maryville, TN., Catherine Russell Goodman (Wade), Aliceville, AL., John Archibald Russell, IV (Kelly) Aliceville, AL., Paul Vaughan Russell, Jr., (Peyton), Birmingham, AL., Benjamin Barron Russell, Denver, CO., Ann Russell Huskey (Whit), Dothan, AL., Ann B. Payne (Brannon), Dothan, AL., William Russell Buster, IV (Mary Lafitte), Fairhope, AL, John Burke Buster, (Erica), Doraville, GA., John Michael Metz (Molly), Marietta, GA., 29 great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
The Internment Service will be held on Sunday June 21, 2020 at 2 PM at the New Live Oak Cemetery. Attendance will be limited to extended family and friends with grandsons and Benjamin Irvin, his friend and caregiver, serving as pallbearers. Special thanks to Ben Irvin, Estelle Thomas, Princess Anderson and Rosie White, faithful friends and caregivers. A Service of Witness to the Resurrection will be held a later date when the danger of Covid-19 is long past
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