Russell, W. Neil, Colonel OMM, CD

Russell, W. Neil, Colonel OMM, CD

May 21st, 2021

Peacefully passed away on Friday, May 21, 2021 at University Hospital. Neil Russell was born in his grandparents’ farmhouse near Minden, Haliburton County, Ontario on June 15, 1935. Although he subsequently travelled the world and lived in several parts of it, he always called Haliburton County “home.”

Graduation from the Royal Military College, Kingston, and later an engineering degree from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, launched Neil on a 33-year career as an officer and pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. His logbook totaled some 6,500 flying hours, first as a Cold War fighter pilot on NATO duty in West Germany and France, later as a flying instructor, and then over 3,500 hours on the C-130 Hercules four-engine transport. As a Lieutenant Colonel, he was the Commanding Officer of 436 Transport Squadron, Trenton, Ontario and later, promoted to Colonel, the Deputy Commander (Operations) of Air Transport Group. His ground jobs included several years in intelligence and long-range planning as well as Canadian Forces Attaché to Italy and Greece. When he retired as a Colonel in 1985, he was Director of Operational Planning, National Defense Headquarters, in Ottawa. He was awarded the Order of Military Merit (OMM), presented to him by the Governor General. Near the age of 50, Neil retired early to start an eleven-year career as an executive in the industry.

On his second retirement in 1998, he and his wife, Elsa, moved to London, Ontario, where Elsa was raised. Once settled in London, Neil took up golf which he enjoyed for several years until his back prevented him from playing. In retirement, he enjoyed choir singing and community volunteering, as well as his perennial love, travel.

In accordance with his wishes, there will be no public commemorations of Neil’s passing. Significantly, however, his ashes will be taken back to his “home” in Haliburton where they will be interred in the Russell family plot, under the pines in the beautiful 12 Mile Lake Cemetery, marked by a black granite memorial inscribed with the motto of the Royal Military College of Canada: “Truth, Duty, Valor,” words which guided Neil through a successful military and business career.

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Greg and Kris DenstedtElsa, We are very sorry to hear of Neil's passing. He was certainly a great guy and very well respected by everyone who knew him. Neil had a great life and definitely lived it to the fullest.
Joan and Nick LangOur sincere condolences to Elsa.
Wendy Lefneski and Robert DaviesElsa, We are so very sorry to read of Neil,s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Tom TelferSending sincere condolences at this sad time. Neil always had a special smile.
Doreen Bunting and your Royalcliffe FriendsElsa: It has been brought to my attention that your husband has passed this last few days ago. On behalf of your friends at Royalcliffe we would like to express our condolences to you in your sorrow.
Doreen IrwinElsa. Was very sorry to hear about Neil’s passing. He was an interesting man and a good neighbour. He put up a good fight throughout all his problems. I’m glad to have known him. Doreen Irwin.
Lawlor RochesterI am so sorry to read of Neil’s death recently.What an accomplished and successful career in the Services .Truly the envy of all. He was such a talented kind and funny man and a wonderful great spirit.I will miss believing that since he lived in London,not that far from Toronto, one day we would meet again.
Jack HicksVery sad news. I always appreciated Neil’s friendship and considered him a best friend. Elinor and I did appreciate the few times that we had together. My heart-felt sympathy to Elsa.
Chris ChanceI only just learned of Neil's death through the RMC newsletter. I never had the privilege of serving in the military with Neil, having only met him when he had transitioned to ComDev, the company he joined upon retirement. He was exceptionally courteous, and very self-effacing. I always looked forward to the opportunity to speak with him, as he was a true gentleman. Adieu mon ami.
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