September 24, 1980 – January 10, 2010
My brother, Russ, was 7 years younger than me. I can remember being so excited when he was born. It was like having a living baby doll that I could carry around and help take care of. Growing up, my 3 brothers and I were a team. Sure, we had our share of spats, but if one of us were trouble, the others came to their defense. “Mess with one of us and you mess with all of us” was our motto.
As an adult, Russel was fun-loving, witty, kind and compassionate. He was a great adventurer and wouldn’t think twice about diving off a cliff into a cenote or surfing in waves that were strong enough to crack a board in half. He was also very competitive. When he and I lived together, there was a daily race to the morning newspaper to get ahold of the crossword puzzle. We were a good team and could complete almost any puzzle together. He loved to challenge himself physically. A few years ago, he decided to run the LA Marathon. With just 2 months of training and a knee injury, he completed the 26 mile race in just under 5 hours. Later, he told me that as he ran the course, people were lining the streets cheering. Being the funny guy he was, he would shout out, “How far ahead are the Kenyans? Do I have a shot at winning?” In 2008, he encouraged me to participate in a local triathlon. I did the 5K run portion, he did the bike portion. We both ended up winning silver medals!
Russel was great with kids. He was the kind of uncle that would get down on the floor and play with his nieces and nephews. At pool parties, there would be a long line of kids waiting for Russ to throw them into the water. And he would just keep on going for hours.
For the past 5 years, Russ worked with troubled kids at a group home in Temecula. He found this work to be very rewarding. He would tell me the horror stories of what these kids had endured and I could see in his eyes that he felt deeply for each and every one of them. He did his best to provide these kids with a sense of normalcy that they had probably never felt before. He would take them to ball games, to the beach, go on camping trips or just toss a football with them. He would make them smile and laugh. They trusted him. He wasn’t like the other adults they knew. He was one of them.
Russel was very quick-witted and funny. No one could top him in a verbal sparring match. He wouldn’t one-up you, he would ten-up you! Try as I might, he would always throw out a zinger that left me speechless. Most recently, Russ and I were having dinner at an Italian restaurant. He ordered a glass of wine and was surprised that the waitress didn’t ask for his ID. Being 7 years older than him, he would always tease me about my age. Seeing a great opportunity to get back at him, I said, “Guess you’re starting to look your age. Did you forget you were turning 30 this year?” His response, “Naw, the waitress just figured that since my mom didn’t object to me ordering wine, then it was ok with her, too.” OUCH! Once again, Russ wins!
I miss Russel so much. There will be an empty place in my heart forever. He was one-of-a-kind and his journey ended way to soon. Although his time here was brief, it brings me some comfort knowing that he touched many people, young and old, and made their lives a little more bearable, a little more humorous and a little more fun. We all love you, Russ. Rest in peace, little brother. We will all be together again someday.