Final Tribute for World War II Hero Col Gerald Russell Will Take Place at Arlington
The tributes to retired U.S. Marine Col. Gerald S. Russell, a World War II hero and community leader, continue long after his death on Feb. 24 at age 97.
On Wednesday, a final tribute will occur at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Russell will be interred with full military honors.
"I think it's a fitting tribute to the man," says friend and family spokesman Brent Pasquinelli. "The way he lived his life is an inspiration to us all. For those of us who knew him, we're very fortunate. He was always giving, he was always teaching, he was always mentoring. He had a very unique style of leadership. He led by example."
Pasquinelli is one of many Centre County residents who will board a bus to make the trek to Arlington. The bus departs State College at 6:30 a.m. and will return at approximately 9 p.m.
"The bus is full," Pasquinelli explains. "There's about 55 of us and there's around 80 who will meet us there. We're going to have people coming in from all over the country."
There are several guests who will speak about the impact Russell had on State College and beyond.
Among those expected to speak are U.S. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, U.S. Marine Corps Com. James Amos and retired Lt. Gen. Larry Snowden.
Russell's amazing life has been well documented.
After graduating from Boston College, Russell enlisted in the Marines. His military career included deployments on Guadalcanal, where he was wounded and contracted malaria, and at Iwo Jima, where he fought for all 36 days. As battalion commander, he was responsible for 1,000 troops and was one of the youngest battalion commanders in World War II.
Russell retired from the Marines in 1968 after 30 years of service. Afterward, he came to Penn State where he became assistant and speech writer to Penn State President John Oswald with co-appointment as assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees. In 1973, he was promoted to assistant professor and dean of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation College. He was promoted to associate dean in 1977 and held that position until he retired in 1987.
Russell was heavily involved in several community programs including Toys for Tots and the Pennsylvania Special Olympics, holding various leadership roles.
Russell also helped start the annual Centre County United Way Day of Caring, during which people from area businesses, schools, service organizations and Penn State spend the day helping out non-profits, historical sites and municipal organizations.
"He inspired and motivated people to follow his lead," Pasquinelli said.
Over the years, Russell also arranged for the Honor Guard, Marine Corps Band, and Marine Corps Silent Drill Team to participate in opening ceremonies at the Special Olympics. Despite heart surgery and broken hips, Russell remained active in yearly preparations for the event.
Make no mistake about it, though, Russell was also a family man.
"Somehow, he maintained a very solid, loving relationship with his wife, Eileen. He also raised two wonderful, successful daughters, even though he moved a lot. I think he moved 22 times in 28 years with the military. He was a man who never quit. He was on the go continuously, but he was always able to get back to his family," Pasquinelli says.
The ceremony is open to the public. At 12:15 p.m., the group will meet at Old Post Chapel in Fort Myer, Va. There will be a procession to Arlington for a graveside ceremony.
"This is his final journey," Pasquinelli says. "It's really a wonderful tribute to Col. Russell."