Remembering my Uncle Russ today on what would have been his 84th birthday. Uncle Russ was 16 years old when I was born. My parents were living with my grandparents when I was born so Uncle Russ was one of the first people I knew as a baby. He held me, played with me, and walked the floor with me when I was fussy. We moved to our own place when I was one, but we were only blocks away from Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Russ. After Uncle Russ graduated from high school, he became a mail man and for a while our street was on his route. I would wait every day for Uncle Russ to come down the street with the mail. I would follow him from house to house for a little while and then go home. Some days he would stop by our house for lunch. When I was four my Uncle joined the Navy. I was heart-broken that he would be gone for long periods of time. He left for Great Lakes Naval Training in November 1951 and completed his training in March 1952. From there he went to Jacksonville Florida for more schooling and then to Memphis, Tennessee for still more schooling. I’m not sure what his training or schooling was in, but he ended up working on airplanes and belonged to the Air Transport Squadron and his occupation was crew member. After his schooling in Memphis he was transferred to Moffet Field in California in September 1952. He was there until February of 1954 when he was transferred to Hickam AFB in Oahu, Hawaii until his discharge in November 1955. We saw him periodically during the four years when he would come home on leave. While he was stationed in Hawaii he did not come home on leave, and we did not see him for a couple of years. He would send me presents from where ever he was stationed. He sent me a hula skirt from Hawaii. He sent my mother a Chinese tea set from San Francisco. I now have that tea set. He also sent me dolls for my doll collection, and he never forgot my birthdays. While he was gone, my brother was born. So he came home to a baby nephew.
After Uncle Russ came home there was a period of time when he had no job. He would be over at our house almost every day when I got home from school, and he would play board games with me. I can remember my grandmother talking to my mother about him needing to get a job. Everyone seemed worried that he wasn’t working except for me. I didn’t want him to get a job because I wanted to play games with him every day. But he finally did get a job at B. F. Goodrich changing tires on cars. He worked there about 5 years when he met his future wife. She came in for new tires for her car. A few months later they married. After they were married he got a job working for TWA. During his time at TWA he loaded luggage on the plane, loaded the food on the plane, cleaned the planes, and then became a ticket agent. He was married to his first wife for 13 years and there were no children when they divorced. He moved to Phoenix, Arizona married a second time. They moved back to the Chicago area and they divorced after two years. He again moved back to Phoenix and then married again. This time the marriage lasted a year. After that he said he was done and was not going to marry again and he never did. My mother and brother moved down to Phoenix after my father died and lived with him down there. After my mother’s death my brother and uncle moved back to the Chicago area and he stayed in the Chicago area until his death. Uncle Russ was very competitive when he played games. He played to win. He was a wiz at crossword puzzles. The last few years of his life, he became a recluse and we didn’t see or hear from him often. He seemed to prefer his solitary life. It made me sad that he wasn’t more involved in our lives. But I have great memories of my Uncle the way he was when I was younger. Even my kids remember their Great Uncle the way he was before he became a recluse. He passed away on October 4, 2011 alone. So it is on this day that I think about all the fun my brother and I had growing up with Uncle Russ. He was always there for us. I miss you Uncle Russ. RIP.
Copyright © 2014 Gail Grunst