The following biographical sketch is adapted from
the "News of the Church: Elder Gardner H. Russell of the First Quorum of
the Seventy" published in the Ensign for May 1986 on the occasion
of Elder Russell's call to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
When Gardner Russell, newly called to the First Quorum
of the Seventy, and his wife, Dorothy, were asked if they would be willing
to accept an appointment to serve outside the U.S., they were prepared,
having lived in Latin America for twenty-one years.
Gardner Hale Russell was born in Salt Lake City,
but he grew up in Hamilton, Ohio. His father was a professor of Romance
languages at Miami University in nearby Oxford.
Years later Elder Russell met Dorothy Annette Rich
in the San Francisco, California ward they both attended. At the time,
he had returned from the Argentine Mission, graduated from Miami University,
spent two years in diplomatic service in the U.S.
Embassy in Brazil, attended Stanford Law School for a year, and was
at present working for a steel company based in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
His work required frequent international travel. After their marriage,
Brother and Sister Russell spent a
six-week “honeymoon” in Venezuela, where Brother Russell was assigned
to travel for his company.
Later the young family, including a five-month-old
daughter, Cheryl, moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where a second daughter,
Kathy, was born. The Church was not yet established there, so meetings
were held on the porch of a member’s home at Guajataca, near Ramey Air
Base. The average attendance was ten.
As Gardner Russell’s prefabricated home manufacturing
business grew, so did the Church in Puerto Rico. He became the first district
president of the Caribbean District, in those days part of the Southern
States Mission. The Russells saw the establishment of the first branch
in San Juan, its first missionaries, and, in 1970, the first chapel dedicated.
That same year, Elder and Sister Russell were called
to the Uruguay Paraguay Mission.
On their return home to the United States, the family
stopped in Florida at the invitation of a friend who wanted to consult
with Gardner Russell in dealing with some problems in a company there.
The Russells stayed. And since 1973, they have called Satellite Beach,
Their opportunities to serve in Florida have been
many. Elder Russell served on the high council of the Orlando Florida Stake,
as bishop of the Melbourne Ward, and as first counselor in the presidency
of the Cocoa Florida Stake. Then for nearly five years they were back in
Puerto Rico, where he served as regional representative.
In June of 1985, Gardner Russell was called as regional
representative to the Miami and Orlando regions and began to feel settled
and comfortable. “Perhaps too settled and comfortable,” observes Sister
Russell, who has enjoyed having her grandchildren near her, working with
the Young Adults, and teaching institute classes, while serving as the
public communications representative in their area.
“My long love affair with Latin America,” says Elder
Russell, “resumes with this call to the First Quorum of the Seventy. I
am both humbled and excited to get down there and get to work. I return
with a deep awareness of the profound changes that have occurred in Latin
America over the last twenty-one years since I went there as a young man.
The growth of leadership there has been wonderful to witness.”
Elder Russell’s service in commerce and industry
has included nine years on the Board of Presbyterian Community Hospital
in San Juan; vice-chairman, Board of Trustees for the Inter-American University;
and the governor’s special appointee to the commission of Higher Education
in San Juan.
Elder Russell served but three years of his five-year
call to the First Quorum of the Seventy before being transferred to the
newly created Second Quorum of the Seventy on April 1, 1989. He faithfully
served the remainder of his call and was honorably released from the Second
Quorum on October 5, 1991.
Elder Gardner H. Russell, who served in the First and
Second Quorums of the Seventy from 1986 to 1991, passed away on Nov. 19, in
Florida. He was 92.