OBITUARY: Robert H. Russell, Former Wilton First Selectman & Town Historian

Photo: Bounton Funeral Home

Robert (Bob) Harry Russell passed away suddenly at his home on June 18, at the age of 86. He leaves his wife of 60 years, Carol, his son James and wife Susan, his daughter Jennifer and husband Mark Mahoney, and beloved grandchildren John and Thomas Russell and Ven Mahoney. Bob is also survived by his sister Martha Russell Hsu.

Bob was born Sept. 4, 1935, in Wheeling, W.Va., the son of Robert H. Russell and Helen Bowers Russell, and grew up in Shadyside, Ohio. He graduated from Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, PA in 1957 with a major in Electrical Engineering. Upon graduation, Bob began a 35-year career working for IBM Corporation in various positions, primarily as Director of Forecasting. In 1962, Bob met his wife, Carol, who was also employed by IBM, and they were married later that year. The Russell family relocated to Wilton in 1969.

Bob was very active in Wilton, its organizations, and its preservation. He served as a volunteer on the Board of Finance, the Police Commission, and the Historic District and Historic Property Commission. Upon retirement from IBM in 1992, Bob was asked to run for first selectman. He served for three terms, 1993-1999, during which the Town expanded schools, purchased a number of open spaces (including Ambler Farm), and provided for affordable senior living.

He also served as a trustee of the Wilton Library and the Wilton Historical Society, and he was active in the Wilton Congregational Church. His role as the Church historian inspired his learning and research of the history of Wilton.

Recognizing the lack of a complete town history, he took on the task to write one, which culminated in the publishing of his book, Wilton Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places, and Progress. The five-year project of researching and writing the book was a labor of love. In recognition of the impact of Bob’s work and of his wife Carol’s archival contributions to town history, the library History Room was named in his family’s honor. Bob was well-known as a curator for the Wilton Library book sale, where he loved pouring through old books and discovering rare and unusual volumes.

After moving to Meadow Ridge retirement community in 2014, Bob remained active in the community there, volunteering for the library, scholarship, and building committees, as well as writing for the Ridge Record newsletter.

Bob will be buried at Hillside Cemetery in Wilton. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Bob Russell to the Wilton Library, 137 Old Ridgefield Rd., Wilton, CT 06897, and to the Wilton Historical Society, 224 Danbury Rd., Wilton, CT 06897.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Heather, the entire Russell family is so very grateful to you and your excellent and compassionate annoucement of Bob’s death. The interviews and complete story of Bob and what he loved and accomplished in Wilton was remarkable. We thank you so much. I have made copies for the whole family and sent it to friends and family living elsewhere.

    THANK YOU, Carol Russell

    • Mrs. Russell, your husband was such a gracious man who was always extraordinarily helpful to me in my work. His book is invaluable and has been wonderful to read (our Realtor gave it to us as a gift when we moved to Wilton). Both of you have given so much to Wilton and I hope to honor that in the work I do as well. My deepest condolences. — HBH

  2. Thank you for a wonderful compassionate announcement of Bob Russel’s passing. He was a jewel of a man ,devoted to family and community. I had the honor to call him friend.
    Blessing to entire family.

    Christine Pfeffer RNMS, visiting nurse

  3. “My heart breaks for Bob’s family and loved ones. I have been lucky to call Bob and his wife Carol my friends and all my love is with Carol during this extremely difficult time. As we mourn this painful loss, we must also remember and honor all that Bob stood for. Bob embodied public service.

    He had so much love for Wilton; for our town’s history, our community, and our people. When he was First Selectman I was fortunate to serve on the Board of Selectman and I witnessed firsthand how hard Bob worked to make our town a great place and to support each and every resident. I will personally miss his guidance and counsel so much. He was always there whenever needed, sharing his wisdom and perspective. He was and will always be a local treasure, active in making our community a better place for the future, and preserving our history and past. Bob is forever a piece of our town, and his life must be celebrated for all that he has done for Wilton.” Toni Boucher

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