Garrettsville Summerfest 2016 Grand Marshall is Bob Russell.
Mr. Russell has lived in Garrettsville his entire life, all 77 years. He graduated in 1956 with 38 classmates. He was in the last graduating class from Park Avenue School. Bob and his late wife Karen raised two boys, Scott and Mark, who currently live and work in Garrettsville as well. Mr. Russell owned and operated Scotchman Electric before he retired and turned the helm over to his son, Scott.
Russell also served many years as volunteer fireman in Garrettsville. Being fireman was in his blood and became a family affair so to speak. Russell served side by side with his father and brothers. Later his sons Mark and Scott joined the department and now his grandsons, Sam and Isaac, serve the community on the fire department as well.
Russell served in many capacities while at the fire department including captain and chief. In fact, he was fire chief for 15 years. In 1983, while he was chief, he– along with Thelma Bruce, Eldon West, and Don Jagers were instrumental in getting a joint district formed that would be supported by a 3.2 mill levy. The district was named Garrettsville- Freedom- Nelson (GFN) Joint Fire District.
Prior to the passage of a levy and a joint district being formed, the fire department struggled financially. Russell said there were times when they had to beg for money. Many times the firemen would donate their small pay back to the department to keep it operating. The firemen spent many hours volunteering their time to maintain equipment and attend training sessions. It was common to see the firemen and their children hanging out at the station doing repairs and such. Russell said his boys loved going to the station which he believes birthed a sense of community service in their lives.
The formation of the Garrettsville Freedom Nelson (GFN) Fire District was a game changer for the department. Once the district was formed and their finances were stable, they were able to modernize their equipment. This was done by purchasing trucks, air packs and so much more, so the department could run efficiently.
When the district was established it was the second one in the area, Mantua was the first. It was set up so efficiently that it became the model for many other communities as they established joint fire districts.
During his years on the fire department, Russell served as Chief for 15 years, assistant chief, captain and various other positions within the department. Besides being on the fire department, Russell was a member of Portage County Chiefs Association, Portage County Firemen’s Association, Portage County Electrical Association, and the Portage-Geauga County Water Shuttle.
I asked folks to describe Bob Russell in a word or two and most said, he was a kind-hearted, generous man who would do anything he could do to help out. He is known for loaning tools, putting others first and instilling a sense of community in others. They also said he loves Garrettsville.
Since Russell retired, one can find him camping, fishing and traveling around the United States. Although he still lives in Garrettsville, he does admit to spending some of the winter months camping in Florida.
In closing, Bob Russell stated, “Garrettsville is a great place to live, run a business and raise a family. They have a fantastic school district and are a very community –oriented town. I have had a great life here due to the support of family, friends and the community.”