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Robert T. Russell Sr., 87, Army vet and church volunteer

Jan. 29, 1931 - Nov. 30, 2018

Whenever something went wrong for Robert T. Russell Sr. or one of his family members, the devout Christian kept a favorite phrase handy to reassure his loved ones.

“He’d always say the same thing – ‘We’ll be all right, because God is in full control,’ ” recalled his wife, Evelyn Russell. “He was a man of unshakable faith, and when he said those words, he meant them.”

Mr. Russell, an Army veteran who served as a church volunteer for more than 58 years, died Nov. 30 in his Buffalo home after a series of illnesses. He was 87.

He mentored hundreds of people as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Mount Zion Church of God Holiness. Mr. Russell sang in the church choir and served for many years as a church trustee and chairman of finances, but he especially enjoyed teaching children.

“Everywhere we’d go, young people would stop us and say, ‘Mr. Russell, thank you for being my Sunday school teacher,’ ” his wife said. “He put a lot into it, and that meant a lot to him.”

Born in Atlanta, Mr. Russell spent most of his life in Buffalo, where he attended public schools and graduated from Hutchinson Technical High School, where he played basketball. He then joined the Army, spending most of his military years at West Point Military Academy, where he cooked and performed other services.

Mr. Russell worked for many years as a heavy equipment operator for the old Pratt & Letchworth Co. He later worked as a courier for M&T Bank, and after that, as a driver for the Brian K. Lewis Funeral Homes, retiring about five years ago.

A sharp dresser with an infectious laugh, he enjoyed bowing, playing horseshoes, reading Scripture and spending time with his 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

He lost his first wife, the former Alice Ennis, to illness after 38 years of marriage. He was alone for 16 years before marrying the former Evelyn Greene 14 years ago.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by five sons, City Court Judge Robert T. Russell Jr., Wayne Russell, Mark Russell, Darrell Russell and David Russell; and a daughter, Karen Russell.

A funeral service is scheduled at noon Saturday, Dec. 8 at Mount Zion Church of God Holiness, 32 Oakgrove Ave.

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