Russ was born March 12, 1939, in Winchester, Mass., to Walter and Laura Parkin, the youngest of six children. His parents and siblings all preceded him in death.
In 1962 after graduating from flight school, he met Billie and in 1964 while they were traveling back to New Jersey they stopped in Petersburg, Va. They were trying to decide if they should tie the knot when a local policeman asked if he could be of service. They told him they were trying to decide if they should get married or not. Russ decided they should and they had a police escort to the local justice of the peace, who happened to also be the local butcher. They were married by the local butcher at high noon.
They renewed their vows June 26, 1971, at St. John’s Catholic Church Ozark, Ala. Russ and Billie were married for 49 years.
Russ had an extensive military career from 1958-1980. He entered the Army Military Police Corps after graduating from high school in 1958. His first overseas tour of duty was in the Republic of Korea. Upon return from his overseas assignment, Russell completed the Warrant Office Rotary Wing Flight School, where he graduated as a warrant officer one.
Russell was later assigned two tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam during the height of the Tet Offensive. During one tour, he and his crew were shot down over the Mekong Delta and successfully rescued, avoiding capture. Russell had numerous tours of duty in Europe, the United States and Alaska during his military career. Upon his military retirement in 1980, Russell had successfully completed 23 years of military service achieving the rank of chief warrant officer four. During his military career, Russell became an instructor pilot and standardization instructor pilot and was rated in the utility helicopter, attack helicopter and the Army’s fixed wing aircraft. He was a highly decorated Warrant Officer and his accomplishments were exemplary receiving the National Defense Service Medal, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak clusters, 40 air medals, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Aviator, Senior Aviator and Master Aviator Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal and four overseas service bars.
Russ loved the outdoors, football and NASCAR races. Hunting and fishing were two of his great passions. He also loved all aspects of guns. Russ especially liked to reload his own ammo and his girls loved helping him do it. He was also a great gunsmith; he could just about fix anything. The only thing he didn’t mess with was the bluing of the barrels.
Russ will be particularly missed by his family. He was a special husband, father and grandfather. He was always true to his word and there when he was needed most.
He is survived by his wife Billie of Cody; daughters Laura Parkin of Billings; Debra (Sterling) Christler of Cody; and five grandchildren Madison, Jarrett, Kimber, Parker and Morgan.
Graveside services will be at 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, at Riverside Cemetery.
An online memorial is available at www.ballardfh.com