TOWNSEND — June 1, 1926 – Jan. 28, 2018
Clarke Richard Russell, age 91, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, at Serenity Point Life in Townsend.
Clarke was born on the Russell family ranch north of Weippe, Idaho, on June 1, 1926, to Steve Richard Russell and Myrtle May (Jared) Russell. He grew up on the ranch and helped with ranching and the family business of logging. On May 6, 1944, he married Shirley Yvonne Perkins. He graduated as Valedictorian of his class from Weippe High School, Idaho.
On Sept. 18, 1944, Clarke enlisted in the Army during World War II and was assigned to Combat Infantry. After boot camp at Fort Lewis, Washington, he was sent to the Pacific Theater and engaged in heavy combat. His first battle engagement was with the 163rd Regiment, 41st Division conducting an amphibious landing at the Battle of Mindanao (Operation Victor V).
Under heavy mortar fire, his outfit was dumped so far off shore that it required swimming with full battle packs. He could not swim but a buddy got him safely to shore. Several men in his outfit drowned in the landing. After Victor V, he was transferred to the battle for Mount Daho at Jolo Island in the southwest Philippines. There he experienced cave fighting and frequent assault by snipers.
After the Japanese surrender, he was sent to Nigato, Japan, just over the hill from Kuri Navel Base, and put in charge of a crew of Japanese soldiers (prisoners) that were rebuilding the city.
After serving two years, he was mustered out on Oct. 19, 1946. He was never to be the same after participating in these horrors of war.
Upon returning home, he learned the family had sold the ranch at Weippe and bought Lochsa Lodge in north-central Idaho. Here, he was engaged in outfitting elk hunting parties during hunting season and logging at other times of the year. In the winter, he lived at Missoula, Victor or Stevensville in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. Clarke continued his profession of logging at various points in western and central Montana, moving frequently.
He moved to White Sulphur Springs in 1960 and lived there for several years while logging in the surrounding mountains. Logging jobs still required moving around so he lived in the Montana towns of Wilsall, Livingston, Pray, Emigrant, Clyde Park, Three Forks, Townsend, Avon and Elliston.
Clarke prayed for salvation as a Christian in 1962 and began preaching in a small church in Elliston in 1980. In 1994, he and Shirley moved to Townsend where he became pastor of the Cedar Street Baptist Church and, in August 1996, was ordained into the Southern Baptist Convention. For many years, he had a ministry at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. He retired from these ministries in 2011 and lived in Townsend until his death.
He had a life-long interest in mining and minerals and his early ambition was to become a mining engineer and geologist.
He was proceeded in death by his parents, wife Shirley, and two sisters, Margaret and Charlotte. He is survived by his children, Steve F. (Kathleen) Russell of Ames, Iowa; Marla Sue (Michael) Russell-Lubbers of Prairie Village, Kansas; six granddaughters: Carla (Bill) Behrens; Tracy (Jerry) Stuart; Effie (Jeff Barber) Tuttle; Miranda (Lee) Winbush; Abbey Russell-Kostoryz; Rebecca (Jace Lyon) Russell; and several great and great-great grand children.
The family asks that memorial contributions be made to your local church in his name. Celebration-of-Life ceremonies are planned for June 9, 2018 in Ames, Iowa and Aug. 11, 2018 in Townsend. Burial, with military honors, will take place at the Avon Cemetery on Aug. 11. Please contact family for times and places.