This AAT feature is special for a few different reasons. Number one, we’re honoring an American hero on Veterans Day 2020 (the date of this blog’s original publication). Second, We’re also celebrating the fact that this Veterans Day is also his ninety-seventh birthday! Third, this entire feature was only made possible by our highlighted individual’s church family at the Lamoille Community Presbyterian Church. I (Anthony Crosby) have not yet had the pleasure of meeting today’s recognized guest in person; however, after reading and hearing about him over the last few days, I genuinely hope that changes one day!
This week, we want to give a salute to Russell Strite! As of today, Veterans Day, Russell celebrates his ninety-seventh birthday! This is very fitting as he is also a WWII veteran! We here at AAT love our American heroes, as well as a good birthday party, so featuring Russell was a no brainer!
As I previously mentioned, I have not yet met Russell in person; however, his church has had nothing but amazing things to say about him as they’ve shared some details with me over the last few days of putting together this piece.
One of the things they shared with me was an article on Russell written on him for his ninetieth birthday back in 2013. This article was written by Karen Dolan. Karen did an amazing job capturing Russell’s heart and life on the page that I figured I’d simply share Karen’s work with you all today!
Anyone that has driven on the roads in Spring Creek has probably passed Russell while on one of his daily walk. He
usually wears a bright hat and carries ski poles to ward off any neighborhood dogs that aren’t “feeling neighborly”.
Russell Strite was born in Waynesboro, PA November 11, 1923. He was the only child of Russell Sr. and Blanche
Strite, who were descendants of German Mennonite immigrants. The original spelling of their last name was “Streit”
which in German means “argument” or “fight”. When I asked Russell if he felt like he reflected his last name he laughed
and said, “If the cause is worthy or I know I’m right!”
Russell enjoyed chemistry in high school and volunteered to serve in the Army’s Chemistry Division after graduation, 39 1/2 months later he was
discharged at which time he enrolled in the chemistry program at the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy (now
called the Missouri University of Science and Technology). He began his career in Utah working at the Tooele Smelting
Plant east of Salt Lake City. It was there that he fell in love with the desert landscape and majestic mountains “jutting
out of nowhere”. The plant closed six months later and Russell, wanting to stay in the area, accepted a federal position
at the Dugway Proving Ground. He would then travel the Pacific Northwest and work for the Department of the Interior,
analyzing rock and soil samples. He was also employed by the Air Force in Washington State working with petroleum
products. Six years later he transferred to the federal minting facility in Denver, CO where he would stay until his
retirement in 1979. He returned to Pennsylvania and cared for his mother until her passing in 1993.
Throughout Russell’s life he has enjoyed the great outdoors, with hiking and snow shoeing being at the top of his “Favorite Things
to Do” list. Wanting to spend the remainder of his retirement in a place that would offer him an opportunity to do both,
he remembered a visit he’d made to Lamoille Canyon while he was stationed in Reno. He found a book called “The
Sage Brush Ocean” that highlighted the Ruby Mountains and it was a picture of the desert/mountain contrast that sold
him on Spring Creek. Russell was raised Lutheran but says he wasn’t really “saved” until the spring of 1967 when he was given an opportunity to pray with Billy Graham. He says his life was “completely transformed after he was baptized in the Holy Spirit” and believed that living in the Spirit is the key to
contentment. Russell never married and says that he’s pretty much a confirmed bachelor at this point. He also calls himself a “pre 1950’s model” relying on the Washington Times, local radio and Fox News to keep him informed. He enjoys reading, listening to old hymns, and studies his Bible faithfully with Psalm 63 being his personal favorite. In it, David tells God how important he is to him and how he will glorify him throughout his days. Russell read the passage
out loud to me and I could feel his passion and love for God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Russell will turn 90 years old this month and says his plans for the future include learning German. He also says that he
will keep on climbing until the good Lord calls him home. I’m thinking that he will continue to climb when he gets to
heaven. Can you imagine the views?! – Karen Dolan
What a fantastic story! Happy birthday Russell, and thank you for serving our country! We hope you did end up learning to speak a little German and that your desire to keep climbing never ceases! Thank you!
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Until next time, we’ll see you around, Elko!