Remembering Charles F. Russell Jr.

For Athol Daily News
Published: 2/12/2020 9:53:55 PM

Charles F. Russell Jr. ( Chaz ) my camp counselor, teacher and coach died last year. I recently found out about his passing in an obituary in the Athol Daily News as I have followed the history of the Russell family for the past seven decades.

My brother and I where campers at Camp Chanrudoma in Winchendon, starting in 1951. I was 6 my brother was 5. Obviously our parents needed some space and they decided to send us to a place that I remember vividly to this day.

We came to Winchendon from Dorchester, a community with 87,000 residents, trolley cars and an avenue that went from Milton to Boston with literally thousands of stores. We were five miles from Boston City Hall and all the inner city noise and excitement you can imagine.

We were transported every summer for the next seven years to a place that I remember as a working farm with all the animals that you associate with that environment. We were in absolute heaven. The farm/camp was 100 acres with sports and hikes. Once we got lost. Another time the lead hiker stumbled into a wasp nest. The first 12 kids were stung multiple time. I was stung six times. For the most part, our eight weeks there were something very special.

Chaz Russell was the person who taught me sports, patched me up when I was hurt and basically was my older brother. One very memorable time I fell off a bunk and had to be taken into town to get eight stitches from Dr. Skelton (sic), who was right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Frankly, for a kid from a section of Boston the whole seven-year experience was Rockwellian.

Do not get me wrong. The experience was not without a certain amount of excitement and drama. When we where young, a small airplane crashed into the big “white house,” knocking down a chimney. Nobody was hurt, but it was and is a vivid memory.

The most memorable experience of my seven years at Camp Chanrudoma was Chaz taking about 10 young campers on a hike. We all had to cross a pasture, led by Chaz. The pasture was home to horses — Gypsy, Whinny and Dolly were my favorites — cows and a bull .

What was about to happen tells you all you have to know about Charles F. Russell Jr.

The bull started to snort, drive his hoof into the ground and was ready to charge. The animal scared us so much, we all froze. I truly remember like it was a few months ago and it was over 65 years ago. Chaz immediately put himself between the raging bull and us campers. He screamed at the bull and literally confronted the animal. Guess what? The bull backed down and moved away. It was one of the most extraordinary things I have ever witnessed.

I can only guess how many young men and women Chaz touched over his life as an educator, guidance counselor, vice-principal and principal. He was special in so many ways.

Over the years, I stayed in touch by visiting and dropping by when I needed a Camp Chanrudoma fix. I brought my kids to visit and tried to explain this amazing experience with life-long memories. Chaz, the Russell family, Camp Chanrudoma and Winchendon have been part of my life for the last 75 years. It was a great trip. Thank you.

Editor’s note: Jim Lourie lives in West Palm Beach, Fla. Have a memory to share about a special person, place or an event in the North Quabbin Region? Send it to newsroom@atholdailynews.com. Hi-res photos are welcome.

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