Russell Wayne Palmer was born, the youngest of four, to William and Alta Palmer on May 2, 1948. He had an eventful childhood that included stints in San Diego, Calif., and Port Orchard, Wash., where he was often reprimanded for running around the neighborhood at night wreaking havoc.
While pursuing his education at the University of Washington, he made a life-changing first impression on his future wife by slapping her bottom and demanding a tuna fish sandwich. He married Molly JoAnne Hoekema of Seattle, Wash., in 1970. Russ completed his studies with a Bachelors of Science in Zoology and advanced studies in Occupational Safety and Health. He and Molly welcomed three daughters, Tara, Brenna and Meghan, in Seattle, and were expecting their fourth child when they moved to Alaska for a two year contract job with AKOSH. Two years after the arrival of fourth daughter, Marissa, they attempted to complete a Palmer girls' basketball team, but their only son, Evan, arrived to change their plans! Russ worked 13 years for the State and became one of Alaska's first Certified Industrial Hygienists. He was the first person to get a perfect score on the math portion of the national certification exam.
Despite his busy home and work life, Russ found time to crochet Christmas angel tree toppers and a bikini for Molly. He taught himself to play piano and experimented with bow hunting, home film and print processing, three-wheeling, turkey-raising, fruit-drying and candle-making. He loved fishing, hunting, camping and all things outdoors. He was the quintessential handyman. He enjoyed woodworking, lumberjacking, electronics building and made a mean tapioca pudding and Spanish rice stuffed bell peppers. He loved to help Molly make and devour homemade enchiladas from his mother's recipe. But perhaps his favorite pastime was swing and ballroom dancing with his wife at every wedding, Elks Purple Bubble Ball and holiday party they attended. His love of dance was shared with his children, with whom he'd dance in their living room, at their weddings and at every formal event they attended.
After his career with the State, Russ took a job with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, where he worked the last 25 years of his life to ensure the safety and health of its many employees. Alaska grew into Russ as thickly as the beards that covered his face every winter, and when he and Molly established a residence in Valdez, to accommodate his ever changing work schedule, he truly found his niche. While there, he served in many community roles including ten years of service as a Gold Rush Days garter-elasticizer, can-can-girl herder and Sheriff extraordinaire, which culminated with his Kingship in 2009. In addition, his dedicated service to Elks Lodge #2537 led to his election as Exalted Ruler in 2002, followed by many years as a Trustee.
In September of 2014, Russ was diagnosed with lung cancer. Ever the scientist, he evaluated his options and fought valiantly, enduring two surgeries and extensive rehabilitation. With his family and friends at his side, he continued to work hard to recover. Despite his efforts, Russ passed peacefully on April 12, 2015, surrounded by loved ones. The universe heaved a sigh as his energy returned to its source. His corneas were donated to two recipients whose sight will now be restored.
Russ was preceded in death by his parents; and his older brother, Richard. He is survived by his wife, Molly; two sisters, Virginia Miller and Cheryl Schnabel; his five children; and 12 grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations in Russ's memory be made to the Valdez Elks Lodge #2537, Scholarship or Building Funds: P.O. Box 1607, Valdez, AK 99686.