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Virginia Russell passes away at age 97
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    After making a significant impact on Statesboro and Bulloch county since moving here in 1932, Virginia Boyce Wilson Russell died Tuesday. She was 97.
    The wife of Fielding Russell, a well-known educator who spent 45 years teaching English at Georgia Southern University, Ms. Russell was the first female freshman at the University of Georgia to letter in a varsity sport. She met her husband at UGA, and the pair moved to Statesboro 76 years ago.
    Russell graduated from Georgia Teachers College with a BS in Education, going on to earn a Master’s degree and a Six Year Certificate.
    Ms. Russell made a great impact on area education, having taught at West Side School,  Middleground School, Mattie Lively Elementary and Julia P. Bryant before retiring.
    “She was my very favorite teacher of all time,” said Jane Page, who was Russell’s student in fifth grade at Mattie Lively in 1960. “She was very sweet and caring. I thought I was so lucky because I got into her class — I’d already heard how wonderful she was.”
    Later on, Russell began writing a column for the Bulloch Herald: “Through the Eyes of Virginia Russell.”
    Dr. Del Presley recalled some of Russell’s columns and shared a portion of one of his favorites.
    Russell wrote about life when they first moved to Statesboro: “Our living quarters consisted of two small rooms and a bathroom.  The bathroom was quite narrow but very wide.  The bathtub was long enough for anyone to sleep in quite comfortably.  The furniture was old but we were young...
      “It is the usual thing now but in our day it wasn’t the usual thing to attend classes in a maternity dress. But I did and I just did finish school in March before the second baby came the first of May....
    “We had a race with the stork and he almost beat us because we had to get a key to unlock the chains which were securely fastened across the [campus] gates each night to keep all automobiles out.  There were no students who owned cars in those days. (There were few students who had more than two pairs of pants.)”
    Presley said he and his wife will miss Russell.
    “Beverly and I met Virginia in 1968, and she made us her friends for life,” he said. “Her passing reminds us that some people are irreplaceable.  No doubt we will find ourselves reminiscing about clever things she said and her good-natured jokes. What a treasure!”
    “She was the first faculty wife I met when we came down from the north,” said Emily Broucek. Recalling involvement in the Dames Club, a group of university wives, she said Russell was “ always a wonderful, fine friend.
    “She and her husband were great assets to the Presbyterian church and community,” she said. “She was just easy to get along with, and always had a great sense of humor.”
    Presley agreed. “When I was writing the history of Georgia Southern a few years ago, she invited me over for some very interesting chats about administrators and faculty she had known. She remembered delicious stories and juicy details well into her 90s. But she would say sternly: “Now you can’t print what I’m about to tell you.”
    Page called Russell “compassionate” and remembered how she treated everyone equally.
    “She made sure every child was special,” she said. “She has been the person I held in my mind as my role model — the high standard I would try to live up to.”
    “Virginia Russell was a very kind and caring person,” Broucek said. “She was always in a good humor.”
    “Virginia had more energy than any woman I’ve ever known,” Presley said.  She “ was an outsider when she came to town in 1932, but quickly she became an insider, because she cared about the people in her new hometown.  She spent the rest of her life giving herself to this community.
    “She was a one-person chamber of commerce for the campus and community. “
    Visitation will be held Friday from 6-8 p.m. at Hodges-Moore Funeral Home. The funeral service will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church. The burial will be held Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the Russell Memorial Park in Winder, Ga.

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