Francis Rusbult — A Memorial Celebration of Life
To My Russ,

When I look at our wedding picture, I wonder how such a young girl had the wisdom to choose such a really wonderful man to be her life's partner.  You have been everything a woman could wish for in a husband.  For seventy years you have been the love of my life.

You have been a great father for our three children, who always loved and respected you.

We've had a full life of happiness.  And yes, some sorrows, but you were always the strong part of our team, and helped me through them.

You always had strong faith in God, believing he was in “full charge” of your life.  He brought you home from the war, through several serious surgeries, and the heartbreak of our beloved Caryl's death.  You knew He was going to take you home to Him.

I don't know how I'm going to manage without you to guide me, but I'll be talking to you, and someday you'll be welcoming me to our final home for eternity.

Until then I'll carry in my heart the last words you wrote to me in the hospital, “You are the love of my life.”

Your Mary
Mom and Dad - Wedding Picture

Obituaries (short for newspaper, and longer)
and Memorial Tributes by:  Mary Rusbult (wife) — Connie Wittmann (daughter) — Craig Rusbult (son) — David Lowery (son-in-law) — Sherry Eaker (cousin).

Poems for the Printed Program  —  Music ( lyrics and mp3 to play )  —  Wedding Photo (as above but larger)


also: tributes for Caryl Rusbult who died in 2010 at age 57, which sadly was long before her time.



OBITUARY — by Mary Rusbult, in Orange County Register (November 27, 2013).


Rusbult, Francis Edwin "Russ", 91, passed away peacefully in his home on November 19, 2013.  He was preceded in death by Rex (brother) and Caryl (daughter).  Survived by Mary (wife of 70 years); Connie (daughter); Craig (son); Kimberly and Nikki (grand-daughters); Brianna, Dylan, and Robert (great-grandchildren); and Charles (brother).

Visitation is November 29, 4-8 pm, Hilgenfeld Mortuary, and a Memorial Celebration of Life is 11 am, November 30, West Anaheim United Methodist Church.


In his own brief summary, Russ said "my life has been filled with many wonderful experiences."

He was born in Iowa, September 29, 1922, had a happy childhood, served as a B-24 pilot in Europe during World War II, graduated from Parsons College (Bachelor's Degree) and University of Iowa (Master's Degree).

As an educator (teacher and superintendent in Iowa until 1962, then a teacher in Anaheim) he was highly respected by students, teachers, and community members.

He enjoyed flying, teaching, gardening, fishing, sports, and many other activities with friends and family.  Our early family vacations included fishing, swimming, sightseeing.  Later, he and Mary outfitted a van they used for camping and visiting throughout the country.  Other shared travel adventures were ocean cruises and trips to Hawaii, Alaska, and Europe.

Russ was a gentle man, loved and respected by family, friends, and colleagues.  He lives on in our memories.





Francis “Russ” Rusbult, 91, passed away peacefully in his home, November 19, 2013.  He was born in Iowa to Audie & Henry Rusbult on September 29, 1922.


He graduated from Parsons College, where he met his future bride, Mary Laughlin.  Here is the story of our beginnings.

We had been casual friends until one cold December afternoon when I got off the bus after spending a weekend at home.  Russ saw me and offered to carry my suitcase back to campus, one mile away.  While walking and talking, we enjoyed being together, and both of us knew that we had started a very special relationship.

Russ had enlisted in the Army Air Force, and was called to active duty in his last semester of college.  While we were apart, good old-fashioned letter writing kept our relationship close.  During the year when Russ was in training to become a pilot, we met once when I traveled to California and he asked me to be his mate for life.  Soon he received his “wings” and officer commission, came home to Iowa on leave, and we were married in March 1944.  Five months later Russ went overseas to serve his country as a B-24 pilot stationed in Italy, flying missions over Germany.  After 10 months the war ended in Europe, and he came home safely to me and his 5 month old daughter, Connie.


In the fall of 1945 while finishing his last semester at Parsons, Russ was offered a part-time teaching position in a nearby town, which started his 41 year career in education.  During the next 5 years he taught full time, and in summers he took graduate courses at the University of Iowa where he earned a masters degree in Educational Administration.

For the next 8 years he was superintendent of schools in two towns, and then 4 years as superintendent of a newly reorganized school district for three towns.  There was high tension in this new district, due to old rivalries between two of the towns, plus new concerns in one town that didn't want their high school to close.  Russ worked hard trying to be a diplomatic peacemaker with the goal of improving education for the whole district.  This wasn't easy.  After 3 years of turmoil, the Assistant State Superintendent told Russ that he had one of the most challenging jobs in the whole state.  After 4 years of dealing with these headaches he decided to leave administration, and we moved to California where he returned to the classroom – his first love in education.

Throughout his long career, he was highly respected by students, teachers, and community members.


Russ enjoyed flying, teaching, fishing, sports, and many other activities with friends and family.
He loved gardening, and every year we had a good crop of tomatoes to share.  He was very active, always having some new project going in the yard or house.
On the lighter side, as a young boy Russ learned to wiggle his ears.  Little kids loved to see him do this trick.  And later, after he lost his vocal chords, they were fascinated by his “robot” voice.

Throughout the years, Russ and I had many good times with our family: Connie, Craig, and Caryl.   Here are a few examples.

Russ was very creative helping us color Easter eggs, and then hiding them, along with candy eggs, so the kids could search for them in egg hunts.

When we lived in Iowa, many summers we drove north to Minnesota for fishing, swimming, sightseeing and, of course, fighting mosquitoes.  We also made vacation trips to Wisconsin Dells, Colorado, and Chicago.
After retirement, Russ and I traveled more widely in a van we outfitted so it became a home on wheels, used for camping and visiting all over the country, to every continental state except one.  Other shared travel adventures were ocean cruises and trips to Hawaii, Alaska, and several to Europe, including Amsterdam where our daughter Caryl and her husband David were college professors.


In 1986, Russ was diagnosed with throat cancer.  Initially, radiation therapy appeared to be successful although, sadly, he did have to retire from teaching.  Then in 1989 the cancer returned, and in surgery he lost his vocal chords.
When facing the new challenge of living without a voice, Russ had so much courage.  He was determined to overcome this disability, and joined a “Lost Chord” cancer support group.  He began to learn esophageal speech, which is a technique for speaking naturally without vocal chords.  This is not easy to master, but Russ was persistent and was willing to invest the long hours of practice it required.  Together, in our home and during long walks, he and I worked to achieve his goal of learning to speak in a new way.

Then he and Art (another member of Lost Chord) talked in schools, showing what can happen to smokers.  They were in high demand, many students heard their message, and they felt the satisfaction of helping young students decide to avoid smoking.  This was one of the many situations where, as a teacher and in everyday life, he touched the lives of others in beneficial ways.

Russ had worked at Angel Stadium for two decades, after school and on weekends.   He considered this his “fun job”.  He submitted his resignation to Chuck (his boss) who never turned it in.  Instead, he later convinced Russ to return to work.  This acceptance by his boss and then his fellow employees, even though he couldn't speak in the normal way, made Russ very happy.


After retirement, we continued traveling and doing many other activities with friends and family, including a big celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary in 1994.  Russ was active to the end, walking into the hospital in late October, but three weeks later God took him home.


Russ was my best friend.  We were fortunate to have 70 loving years together, with many exciting experiences and wonderful memories.  He was a gentle man, loved and respected by family, friends, and colleagues, by all who knew him well.   He lives on in our memories.


Russ was preceded in death by his parents, Rex (brother), and Caryl (daughter).  He is survived by Mary (wife), Connie (daughter), Craig (son), Kimberly and Nikki (grand-daughters), Brianna, Dylan, and Robert (great-grandchildren), and Charles (brother).



by Connie Wittmann — hopefully it soon will be included here.



by Craig Rusbult

Thanks, Connie, for describing how much you loved our father, and a few of the many reasons why.  Mom won't be speaking, but she invested a lot of time writing, to explain why she loved her husband.  You can read about it here [I showed the program's “insert”] and in an obituary for the Orange County Register.

In a brief summary, earlier in his life Dad wrote that… “my life has been filled with many wonderful experiences.”  Connie and Mom told you about some details.

I'll describe two things, how Dad was respectable, and loving.


By respectable, I mean worthy of respect.  Dad was competent, capable of doing the many good things he wanted to do.  He also was responsible – reliable and trustworthy – so people could depend on him, trusting him to do what he promised, and do it well.  Here are a few examples.

Dad was 1 ½ years younger than others in his high school.  Sometimes he felt socially inexperienced, and a bit shy, but he was elected president of his senior class, and was editor of the school paper.

In World War 2, the U.S. Air Force let him become a pilot, a very important job that was highly demanding, mentally and physically.

Back on the ground, ….. he drove a car 75 years with no accidents.

He was Mr. Fix-It and Build-It, in a wide variety of ways.  One of my favorites was a van that began as an empty shell, until he changed it into a home on wheels, with a bed that in the daytime converted into a table with seats, plus a refrigerator and cabinets.  He and Mom drove it all over the country, to the east coast to visit Connie twice, and Caryl, and me at my two UWs – in Seattle ... and in Madison where he and Mom were blessed with an early October snowfall, the earliest on record.

And he was worthy of respect in education for 41 years, in Iowa as a teacher and then superintendent, and back to teaching in California.


Dad also was loving.  Very importantly, this was loving as a verb, with attitudes of loving converted into actions of loving.

In our family, he always wanted his wife and children to be happy, by encouraging us to follow our dreams, to do what we really wanted, and enjoy doing it.  For me, a few of the many ways were baseball (playing catch in the back yard),
football (traveling to watch games at the University of Iowa, plus buying a ball and helmet for me), fishing (locally and in trips north to Minnesota), learning and thinking (as with a book about dinosaurs, a chemistry set, and much more).

Together, he and mom invested a lot of time in making a big decision, moving from Iowa to Anaheim.  Later in life, I often told him how much I appreciated this move, because I thought it was a wise decision.

Another practical loving action was doing what was required during the war, in cooperation with the rest of his flight crew, to bring everyone back alive and in good condition.

In the life of my father, a major way to love was his work in education.  One perspective on this comes from my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  I like this movie partly for its art (the writing, acting, photography) but mainly for the message:  Each of us affects many other people, and life is more wonderful if we affect others in ways that are beneficial, that help them make their own lives better, that help them enjoy life and more fully develop their God-given potentials.  Education is an ideal vocation for doing this.  During his final week, Mom pointed out the obvious, that “Russ touched so many people with his teaching.”  Of course, he beneficially affected many students, but also other teachers, and – especially the 3 times he was a superintendent of schools – members of the community.  Even after retirement, after losing his vocal chords and learning to talk in a new way he returned to classrooms warning young students that losing their voice (or losing their lungs and their life) also could happen to them if they smoked.

You can see Dad's love in the songs he chose for this memorial celebration of life.  For example, “I Believe” reminds us that rain can lead to the growing of flowers.  And our grief can lead us to a personal growing in the beneficial ways we love all of our family and friends who are still alive.


Dad was worthy of respect, and he was loving, so he was respected and loved by family and friends.   He lives on in our memories.



by David Lowery (writing for his ex-wife, Dad's ex-daughter, Caryl Rusbult) — hopefully it soon will be included here.



by Sherry Eaker — hopefully it soon will be included here.




Mom chose this poem for
the printed memorial program:


I Am Always With You


    When I am gone, release me, let me go.
I have so many things to see and do.
You mustn't tie yourself to me with too many tears,
But be thankful we had so many good years.
    I gave you my love, and you can only guess
how much you've given me in happiness.
I thank you for the love that you have shown,
but now it is time I traveled on alone.
    So grieve for me a while, if grieve you must,
then let your grief be comforted by trust
that it is only for a while that we must part,
so treasure the memories within your heart.
    I won't be far away, for life goes on,
and if you need me, call and I will come.
Though you can't see or touch me, I will be near
and if you listen with your heart,
you'll hear all my love around you soft and clear.
    And then, when you come this way alone,
I'll greet you with a smile and a "Welcome Home".





And here was the runner-up:


Miss Me – But Let Me Go


When I come to the end of the road,

and the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.

Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not too long,

and not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared.

Miss me, but let me go.


For this is a journey we all must take,

and each must go alone.
It's all a part of the Master's plan,

a step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart,

go to the friends we know,

and bury your sorrows

in doing good deeds.
Miss me, but let me go.




The following songs (with playable mp3's for the last two) were requested by Dad, for his memorial service:  How Great Thou Art,  It Is No Secret,  I Believe,  I'll Walk Alone,  Beyond the Sunset.

How Great Thou Art
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the world Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed
[ Refrain ]
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;  [ R ]
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.  [ R ]
When Christ shall come, With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home, What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow In humble adoration,
And there proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!"  [ R ]
It Is No Secret (what God can do)
The chimes of time ring out the news,
Another day is through.
Someone slipped and fell.
Was that someone you?
You may have longed for added strength,
Your courage to renew.
Do not be disheartened,
For I have news for you.
It is no secret what God can do.
What He's done for others, He'll do for you.
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you.
It is no secret what God can do.
There is no night for in His light
You never walk alone.
Always feel at home,
Wherever you may go.
There is no power can conquer you
While God is on your side.
Take Him at His promise,
Don't run away and hide.
It is no secret what God can do.
What He's done for others, He'll do for you.
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you.
It is no secret what God can do.
I Believe
I believe for every drop of rain that falls
    A flower grows.
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
    A candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray,
    Someone will come to show the way.
I believe, I believe.
I believe above a storm the smallest prayer
    Will still be heard,
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
    Hears every word.
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
    Or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
Then I know why,
I believe.
I'll Walk Alone

I'll walk alone, because to tell you the truth,
I'll be lonely.  I don't mind being lonely,
When my heart tells me you are lonely, too.

I'll walk alone, they'll ask me why and I'll tell them
I'd rather, There are dreams I must gather,
Dreams we fashioned the night you held me tight.

I'll always be near you wherever you are each night
In every prayer.  If you call I'll hear you,
no matter how far, Just close your eyes and I'll be there.

Please walk alone and send your love
and your kisses to guide me,
Till you're walking beside me, I'll walk alone

I'll always be near you wherever you are each night
In every prayer, If you call I'll hear you, no matter how far.
Just close your eyes, and I'll be there.

Please walk alone, and send your love
and your kisses to guide me.
Till you're walking beside me, I'll walk alone,
I'll walk alone.


This song (samples - 1 2 ) was played at service.

Beyond the Sunset

This song has two sets of lyrics.  One is what I call "melodic" (on left) and another is "narrative" (right side).   The recording we used for the memorial service, sung by Pat Boone, is a hybrid that combines some of each;  it uses the italicized lyrics below (1 2 3 4), and omits the non-italicized lyrics.

Beyond The Sunset (melodic)

1. Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning,
When with our Saviour heaven is begun.
Earth's toiling ended, O glorious dawning,
Beyond the sunset when day is done.


Beyond the sunset, no clouds will gather,
No storms will threaten, no fears annoy.
O day of gladness, O day unending,
Beyond the sunset eternal joy.


Beyond the sunset, a hand will guide me,
To God the Father whom I adore.
His glorious presence, His words of welcome,
Will be my portion on that fair shore.


4. Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion,
With our dear loved ones who've gone before.
In that fair homeland we'll know no parting,
Beyond the sunset forever more.

Beyond The Sunset (narrative)

2. Should you go first and I remain to walk the road alone
I'll live in memory's garden dear with happy days we've known.
In spring I'll wait for roses red when fades the lilacs bloom
And in early fall when brown leaves fall I'll catch a glimpse of you.


Should you go first and I remain for battles to be fought,
Each thing you've touched along the way will be a hallowed spot.
I'll hear your voice I'll see your smile though blindly I may grope,
The mem'ry of your helping hand will buoy me on with hope.
Beyond the sunset oh blissful morning when with our Saviour heaven is begun,
Earth's toiling ended oh glorious dawning beyond the sunset when day is done


3. Should you go first and I remain to finish with the scroll,
No lengthening shadows shall ever creep in to make this life seem droll.
We've known so much of happiness we've had our cup of joy,
And memory is one gift of God that death cannot destroy.


Should you go first and I remain one thing I'll have you do,
Walk slowly down that long lone path for soon I'll follow you.
I'll want to know each step you take that I may walk the same,
For someday down that lonely road you'll hear me call your name.
In that fair homeland we'll know no parting beyond the sunset for evermore.