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John's Story

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John Russo, 87, a former educator and school administrator in Niagara Falls, NY, passed away peacefully while a patient in Landmark Hospital Savannah, GA, on November 18, 2017. He was born in Rochester, NY, the son of Sebastian and Gaetana Noe Russo.
He is survived by his loving wife, Margaret (Peg) (Nacca-Connon); brothers, Sam (Julia) of Woodridge, IL, and Albert of Rochester, NY; as well as an extensive family of cousins, nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by brothers, Dominic and Joseph; sisters, Mary, Josephine and Rose.
While attending Monroe High School, he took advantage of the Eastman School of Music studying percussion. His love of music stayed with him all of his life, serving him in countless ways and often leading him into unexpected experiences. Percussion was his focus and his instrument of choice were the drums. He found them to be a means, not only of expression, but they provided pleasure, social entertainment and when pursuing a college education, he was able to earn extra money, something all college students seem to need.
John served in the US Army and was in the Special Forces, participating in the Army Band. When he was honorably discharged, he decided to take advantage of the GI Bill of Rights and began what turned out to be a continuous pursuit of gaining education and advanced degrees, a Bachelor's led to a Masters of Science
Degree, advancing to a Specialist in Administration and Supervision. In doing so, he attended the University of New York at Brockport, Buffalo State College, Niagara University and the University of Buffalo. His major focus and training was in the field of Education, Science and Mathematics which when combined, enabled him to gain a very wide scope qualifying him to be eligible to put his knowledge and training to good use.
While in college, he was president of the Veteran's Club, formed a band and they toured the state on Sundays, when they didn't have classes putting on benefit performances for the soldiers convalescing in the Veterans' hospitals. He often volunteered to perform on television for a worthy cause.
He and Peg met in college when he asked her to dance, taught her to jitter bug, do the rumba, cha-cha-cha, samba and other latin steps. They quickly were able to "cut a rug" enjoying dancing together. Soon they were entering contests and won several 1st place awards.
Upon graduation, they married and started their careers as educators in Niagara Falls, NY. John had the distinct pleasure of having a 3rd grade class of "little shavers" as he called them, for his 1st class, which was in Niagara Street School, the largest elementary school east of the Mississippi at that time. When Mr. Abate, the principal found out that John had a wide musical background he appointed him to lead the children in choral singing when they were in the auditorium because there was no music teacher at the time.
He was an active member of a number of charitable organizations, the Lions Club, United Way, Cerebral Palsy, etc. During his 35 years as an educator and administrator he taught 3rd grade through college, worked in the old Niagara Street Elementary School, North, South and LaSalle Junior High Schools, ending his career in LaSalle Senior High School in 1988. It was a career with many rewards and he had a great feeling of satisfaction in having taught and positively influenced many children.
As family members aged their needs increased, and John and Peg willingly served as care givers when needed. Unknowingly, this exposure provided medical knowledge that would become useful in the future.
After retiring, a long-time dream of continuing travel exploits around the world was pursued. A memorable situation occurred one travel day when breakfast was in Europe, lunch was enjoyed in Asia and dinner was served in Africa. He was in every continent and on every ocean. John enjoyed the different money values and soon realized that a million lire wasn't the same as a million US dollars and in several countries had a monetary system quite different from ours.
Because he was bi-lingual, he was asked to lead a group of people to be the first guests of the brand new Holiday Inn in Taoramina, Sicily, which was located on the sea. Another tour he led was to the beautiful resort of St. Martin, half French and half Dutch.
He became a leader outside education, by serving as president of the Sunset Island Board in Wilson, New York, helping to protect the waterways around the island. He was president of the Swiss Mountain Village Board in Blowing Rock NC also.
Moving to Kiawah Island, SC, put John closer to nature than he had ever been. He joined the Loggerhead protection program, rising and being on the beach at sunrise, so he could look for the turtle tracks, find and mark the nests. This effort started around Mother's Day and ended in late summer when the eggs hatched. When the hatchlings came out of the nest, he and others protected the baby turtles as they traveled the distance from the nest to the ocean, from gulls who would swoop down to grab them and carry them away or the crabs, fox and other predators all wanting to devour the new-born turtles. It was quite a thrill for the tourist/children when John would get them to join him to protect as many as 150 baby turtles from the predators by personally escorting them safely, as they emerged out of their shells along the route to the ocean.
Another exposure to wild life happened when he journeyed out of the US to Africa, traveling into the Sahara desert, visiting a Bedouin camp and observing their life style and the importance and value placed upon the animals. When he went into the Kenya, Nairobi, area on a picture safari, every means of transportation including flying in a cub propeller plane and hot air balloon over the jungle and plains to observe the lion, giraffe, hippos, etc. was employed. Swimming with the baby shark, sting rays, multi-colored fish in Tahiti, Bora-Bora and other Pacific islands was exciting to say the least. Food, culture, life style, inter-personal relations and understanding of our world's people was absorbed, appreciated and enjoyed.
When he was in his chosen community, he made good friends with men who came from different careers and backgrounds, but all had a love of music and played an instrument. They met regularly in one fellow's garage and practiced for an afternoon each week. Soon they formed a band and were playing before dinner groups.
John belonged to the Exchange Club of Kiawah-Seabrook and when it was learned that extras were needed for the movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Robert Redford was directing, most of the members auditioned and were accepted including John. They were paid for the time they spent on location, being filmed at all times of the day and night. They pooled the money received and donated it to Habitat for Humanity.
As age crept up on him, he realized he needed to be closer to necessary things such as medical facilities, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc. Sun City was just beginning to be developed so it became a very desirable place to relocate. He and Peg bought a home, began making friends and immersed in the local activities, such as being a Bocce captain, ballroom dancer, started a poker group and participated in Pinochle and several other card games.
John will be remembered as a great music lover, mostly for his love of jazz, blues, classical, big band music and Frank Sinatra. He enjoyed socializing, was a terrific dancer and had a great sense of humor., Most of all he loved life, was true to his friends, had a sense of fairness, treasured family and the traditions they followed particularly during holidays. Those who had the pleasure to associate with him, regarded him as a fine human being. He will be sorely missed but remembered with good memories.
The family will be receiving friends from 10:00 - 11:30 AM, followed by a prayer service and dove release on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at Sauls Funeral Home, 90 Simmonsville Road, Bluffton, SC 29910.
A visitation will be held from 4-8 PM on Thursday, November 30, 2017 at SPALLINO-AMIGONE Funeral Home, 1300 Pine Avenue, Niagara Falls, NY 14301. A funeral service will be held at 11 AM on Friday, December 1, 2017 at SPALLINO-AMIGONE Funeral Home, 1300 Pine Avenue, with burial following at St. Joseph's Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the American Lung Association or Habitat for Humanity.
Please share condolences at AMIGONE.com.
Published on November 24, 2017
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