Russell Eugene Ellison left earth for heaven on August 23, 2020. He was born on March 12, 1934, in Oklahoma.
Seeing no future for himself in the tiny town of Sallisaw, OK, where he was raised, Russ had a bus ticket ready and left for California the morning after he graduated from high school. He hit the ground running, and, if you knew him, you know that he kept up the pace for the rest of his life. Age was always just an inaccurate number for him as he maintained his youthful drive and would often leave men in their twenties begging for a break on the job.
After serving in the US Navy aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Shangri-La, he entered the electrical trade. In 1972, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to obtain his contractor’s license and then open his own business, Ellison Electric. He took great pride in the fact that a boy from a small Oklahoma town became a successful business owner. His small business was referral based, and he worked hard to provide excellent service, making many lifelong friends in the process. He always said that he loved his job and he was excited to go to work every day.
Russ had a mechanical engineer’s brain, and he always had an innovative approach to challenges leaving anyone watching amazed by what he was able to accomplish with the use of a little manpower and simple machines. He designed and built a Grade A goat dairy barn and his ingenious creation served as a model for many other dairies. He was the Google that many other contractors used for consultation on codes, ideas and planning. Driving across Fresno with Russ was always an adventure down memory lane as he pointed out jobs he had done: homes, service stations, malls and other businesses.
Russ loved to work, but he was also a very devoted family man. He was an incredible, hands-on, down on the floor with the kids kind of dad who loved to cook (famous for his cinnamon rolls), was the most animated storybook reader and gave the best hugs ever. He taught his kids by having them do things with him. When it came to work, there were no gender lines. He raised his boys and girls to get in and help as a family, and, if he needed a helper to pull wire, he was happy to have any of the kids with him. He raised a group of smart, independent, capable, common sense approach kids who knew who had their back anytime they needed him.
Russ was a larger than life, timeless kind of guy. He was our “Energizer Bunny” and he always bounced back from great hardship. It is so hard for us to believe that his time on the earth has come to an end, but Russ leaves behind a legacy of love. His presence and influence can be felt everywhere by those who knew and loved him, and, through him, we know this simple truth: Love lives on.
Russ is survived by his wife, best friend and soul mate, Kendal Ellison. Marveling at his family, Russ recently told her, “I have eight kids, and I am so proud of every single one of them.” He is survived by his children Pamela McGehee and her husband, James; Russell D. Ellison, and his wife, Barbara; Susan Ellison Carey; John D. Ellison and his wife, Tracy; Judy Henson and her husband, John; Stephanie Ellison; Trevor Ellison and his wife, Nicole; and Jessica Ellison.
Russ was also a proud grandpa to Stephanie Bearden, Shane Bearden, Stephen Ellison, Stephanie Olivares, Kathleen Blaine, Douglas Carey, Aubree Ellison, Clay Ellison, Morgan Henson, Grace Henson, Madeline Henson, and Logan Ellison. His great-grandchildren include Lindsay Lovell, Damian Bearden, Adam Valdez, Jack Chrismer, Evelyn Blaine, and Hank Blaine and he has one great-great grandson, Zander Medlock.
Russ wanted his funeral to be a celebration with family and friends visiting, eating and sharing stories. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, this type of celebration is not practical or safe at this point in time. The family has elected to have a service for immediate family members now, and then host the celebration Russ wanted when it is safe to do so. We’ll post an announcement when we can plan a date.
In the meantime, in memory of Russ, plan a family dinner or picnic. Russ was very concerned about the effect of closures on our local businesses. So, in his honor, buy a meal from a local restaurant, and spend some special family time enjoying each other’s company…and tell a few “Russ stories”. He’d love that.
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