Lon N. Russ, 84, Army veteran, teacher and coach in Baltimore public schools

July 17, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Lon N. Russ, a physical education teacher and longtime coach in Baltimore public schools, died Saturday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium of complications from a stroke. He was 84 and lived in Loch Raven Village.

Mr. Russ was born in Canonsburg, Pa., and graduated from high school in Beaver, Pa. Drafted into the Army, he served as a radioman with the Signal Corps in the Pacific theater. He was discharged in 1945.

After earning his bachelor's degree from Springfield College, Mr. Russ' first coaching job was at Polytechnic Institute in 1949.

"He brought them their first lacrosse championship in years, when the team won in 1950," said the former Kit Hall, Mr. Russ' high school sweetheart and wife of 47 years.

After leaving Poly, he became a physical education teacher at Thomas Johnson Elementary School in South Baltimore.

He later coached lacrosse, football and swimming at Edmondson High School. While coaching at Northern High School, Mr. Russ, who was affectionately called "Pop" or "Coach" by his players, was credited with saving the life of one of his linebackers.

During a game against McDonogh School in 1975, Northern linebacker Benjamin Forte's neck was injured as he made a tackle in the third quarter. Despite being in pain, the player insisted on re-entering the game. He was ordered by Mr. Russ to remain on the bench.

After the game, as the two headed to the locker room, Mr. Russ noticed that the player was in severe pain. Because there was no physician present, he called an ambulance.

Mr. Forte was taken to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, where it was discovered he had a broken neck. He recovered.

Mr. Russ organized a fund-raiser to help with the student's medical expenses and refused to accept praise for saving his life. The incident forced school authorities to consider the need to have physicians present at sporting events.

"The Lord saved his life. He kept him from going back on the field, not me," Mr. Russ told The Sun in an interview at the time.

Mr. Russ retired in 1976.

In addition to his high school coaching, Mr. Russ also worked as a sports counselor at the Sidwell Friends School summer camp in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania for many years.

Mr. Russ was an avid golfer and a member of Loch Raven Presbyterian Church.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Timothy Russ of Loch Raven Village; and two brothers, John Russ of San Jose, Calif., and Eugene Russ of Jackson, Miss.

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