On August 24th, I looked back on the life of my Godfather,
Russell Charles Johnson
who died this day 35 years ago at age 42. He struggled valiantly with Cancer before dying at Northwest Community Hospital in the early morning of Tuesday, August 24, 1971. He left behind his beloved wife and 3 daughters, the oldest of which was only 17 years old. Uncle Russ was the identical twin brother of my father - being older by 10 minutes.
As the 35 years have gone by since his death it is natural to have some of the memories fade, but I have tried very much to keep them with me as I went thru life. Uncle Russ taught me a number of things, many by example, but many others through conversations with me that I hold dear.
Uncle Russ was a great Husband, Father, Brother, Son and Uncle, who had a natural athleticism and competitive streak that showed whenever the opportunity presented itself. He told me that when you play anything, from baseball, to Ping Pong, even to Pollyanna, YOU PLAY TO WIN. You may lose, and you must show good sportsmanship - but you ALWAYS play to win.
He taught me about unconditional love. Shortly before his death, I was taken to his hospital bed to essentially say goodbye - even though as a 15 year old kid, I didn't realize that the end was at hand. He was heavily sedated because of the pain, and his voice sounded eerie as he drifted in and out of consciousness. But when I was brought to his bedside, he told me that he loved me and then he said "......Ricky, they don't make them like you anymore". Here he was, about to die, and he was telling Me about how he loved me.
The picture upper right is my favorite - as it shows only the 2 of us in my front yard, celebrating my confirmation in 1969. I believe at that point he was already sick. I am including some other pictures below. You will find a link to a number of pictures of Uncle Russ that I have scanned - mostly from the collection of snaps that my father had of him that I discovered after his own death. Next are a couple pictures of Brad and I visiting his grave on the anniversary of his death this past Thursday,
I hope those of you that knew him will take a moment to think of your own memories of this great man and perhaps tell others about him. And for those who never met him -