Eugene Russell, 92, of Llano, Texas, joined his Lord and Savior on June 7, 2012. He was born March 10, 1920 in Del Rio, Texas to Rex and Myrtle Slaughter Russell. He died in his home in Llano that he and his wife lived for the past 56 years.
Eugene graduated from Del Rio High School in 1939. He then attended Tarleton University at Stephenville on a football scholarship. He played with leather helmet under the coaching direction of General Earl Rudder, the future president of Texas A & M. In 1942 he enlisted in the US Army, later called the US Army Air Corp. He served in the 82nd Fighter Group, 96th Fighter Squadron as crew chief on the P38 Lightning where he was responsible for maintaining the planes and was the one who said it could be flown. He served in England, North Africa, Sicily and Italy. After two years in service he came home to Texas on R & R and married his sweetheart, Bettye Louise Burnett, at the Little Chapel in the Woods on January 28, 1945 in Denton, Texas. They both went to school in Del Rio where Gene’s love began after watching Bettye playing tennis with her friend Jean Russell. This love grew and kept growing through their 67 years of marriage. After the wartime wedding, he returned to duty overseas until VE Day at which time he and Bettye moved to Lubbock where he attended Texas Tech College receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Education. During this time he worked at the Creamery and he ate vanilla ice cream everyday and every day since.
After graduating in 1947, they moved to Castell, Texas where he taught Veterans School, which was a school to teach returning vets vocational skills. In 1951 he went to work at Llano ISD as the Vocational Ag teacher. In 1954 he attained his Masters of Education at Texas A & M. He worked for 30 years retiring in 1980. He influenced the lives of many, many students and parents. During this time, he with his Ag students, were credited with numerous projects including building bleachers, pens at the Community Center, the Veterinary Clinic and even the first building where he taught school at Castell. All this was done as part of his job and built through many Barbeque Fundraisers where he perfected his world famous Barbeque Sauce, tart and spicy, not to be used as a gravy. He received many conservation awards and worked with many FFA projects though the years. In 1960 his livestock judging team won the Houston Fat Stock Show. The team consisted of his son Derral, Randy Leifeste, and J P Dodgen. He had a livestock judging team that went to National Contest in Kansas City.
After retirement Gene spent a lot of time doing things he loved, hunting and fishing…..and traveling. Gene and Bettye wore out three RV’s and visited all 49 mainland states and Canada.
Gene was a member of Lutie Watkins Memorial United Methodist Church since the 60’s. He served as a Trustee, Sunday School Teacher, Sunday School Superintendent for twelve years, worked with the Youth and naturally built and fixed many projects.
Gene was active in the community, president of the Lions Club, member of Jaycees, city council, president of the PTA, to name a few. In 1955 Llano County Farm Bureau named him Outstanding Citizen of the Year. In 1977 the Llano Chamber of Commerce named him Citizen of the Year. In 2006 he was inducted into the Llano High School Hall of Fame as the Humanitarian of the Year.
Gene is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Bettye Louise; son, Derral and wife Sharan of Kenedy, Texas, son, Bryan and wife Vicki of Magnolia, Texas, son, Bruce and wife Janie of Port Aransas, Texas and son, Dale and wife Cheri of Frisco, Texas. Gene was blessed with thirteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren and daughter-in-love, Bitsy Russell. He was preceded in death by his parents, Myrtle and Rex Russell, four sisters, Lottie, Christine, Flora and Fannie; grandson Cody Ryan Russell, and son, David Aubrey Russell.
A visitation was held on Sunday, June 10, 2012 at Waldrope-Hatfield-Hawthorne Funeral Chapel in Llano from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Funeral Services was Monday, June 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm at Lutie Watkins Memorial United Methodist Church in Llano with Rev. Stan Troy officiating. Burial followed at the Llano City Cemetery. Memorial contributions in Gene’s memory may made be made to the Lutie Watkins Memorial United Methodist Church.
His life truly revolved around his wife, Betty. Theirs was a true never ending romance where at 92 he still held her hand and his eyes still sparkled when he said “I married her in World War II”. His heart showed his love in teaching and family. In his own words at a lay witness retreat, he wrote what he felt were his best qualities: Find good in everybody. Help without recognition. If it is broke…fix it.