Russell Lester Fitzgerald, 105, died on Thursday, December 30, 2021, with his family by his side.
Russ was born on September 19, 1916 in Dilworth, Minnesota, to Matthew and Theresa (Braatz) Fitzgerald. He grew up with a father who loved fishing, hunting and dogs. Wandering the woods and the Lake District as a child, he became a lifelong outdoor enthusiast and environmentalist.
Missing part of school due to illness, he graduated from Dilworth High School in 1936 and soon after was employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad as a roundhouse worker (Hostler) , maintaining steam locomotive engines. He retired from the Burlington Northern Railway in 1978.
Russ was a WWII veteran. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and served in the China-Burma-India theater. He crossed the road from Burma and was armed with the 86th Air Drome Squadron in China. During the deployment and return, he traveled the world, passing through the Suez Canal and past the Statue of Liberty before assembling.
Russell married Catherine McManus on October 27, 1951 and raised five children. Their marriage lasted 67 years and was filled with time spent with friends and family, trips to Ireland and Hawaii, and long summers on Big Cormorant Lake. The Fitzgerald children are fortunate to have the bond they made with him as young children and which has lasted throughout their lives.
An avid sports fan, he has watched the Minnesota Golden Gophers win six national championships; he couldn’t stay long enough for the Vikings to win a Super Bowl. He was community-minded and was involved with many organizations including Elks, American Legion, Dilworth Hook and Bullet, Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, The Nature Conservancy, St. Elizabeth’s Church, and Boy Scouts. He was very proud that his yard in Dilworth had become a staging area for the fall migration of monarch butterflies.
Russell is predeceased by his wife Catherine, granddaughter Kathleen Mary, sister Lila, and brothers Harvey and Clifford. Russell is survived by his five children, Maura (Minneapolis), Shannon (Seattle, WA), Patrick (Big Cormorant Lake), Erin (Tempe, AZ) and Kerry (Dilworth).
The family sincerely thank the Veterans Administration Hospital of Fargo ND for the many years of quality care provided to Russ, as well as the VA and Sanford Health Homecare for helping him live in his own home through many years of physical decline. We also sincerely thank Ecumen-Emmanuel Nursing Home in Detroit Lakes for the care they provided to our father throughout his senior year.
If you would like to commemorate Russ Fitzgerald, donations can be made to the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society online at https: /www.prairiechickens.org/donate or by mail to MPCS c / o Travis Issendorf, 23983 County Road 113, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501. Another simple but important way to commemorate a life well lived would be to plant milkweed this spring for monarch conservation.
Services will be held at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Dilworth. There will be a vigil from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (prayer service at 7 p.m.) on Tuesday January 11. The funeral mass will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday January 12th.
Russ Fitzgerald’s family thank you for coming and for your kind expressions of sympathy. We ask all guests to wear a mask when attending either service. You are welcome to join them for refreshments and fellowship immediately following the funeral service. A celebration of life and burial will take place later this spring.