So often people go through life with the belief that they will be remembered if they do something “big” to leave their mark. However, very often, we are remembered for the small things that we do and the kindnesses that we show other people. Such is the case with Russell Trueblood.
Russell was born on June 26, 1907, in Washington County, near Rush Creek to Grace and Thomas Trueblood. A lifelong resident of Washington County, Russell went to grade school at Brooks School and graduated from Salem High School in 1925. Both Thomas and Grace were Quakers, and although he was a member and Deacon at First Christian Church, Russell took pride in stating that he was a “Birthright Quaker.”
After graduating from High School, Russell drove a delivery truck in Orleans. He married Edith Amanda Thompson in 1935 and served in the South Pacific in WWII. Edith and Russell were married for 55 years.
After the war, Russell opened Trueblood Market on the corner of North Main and Walnut in Salem. The grocery store eventually moved to the Southwest corner of the square. “He was the best butcher we ever had, “ recalled Jack Etzler, long time friend and neighbor. “When Russell got involved in something, he always did his best. He was a high class guy who was highly regarded and a master at getting along with people.”
Russell worked a variety of jobs in his lifetime; however, according to Tom Trueblood, Russell’s son, one of the highlights of Russell’s life was when he served as Mayor of Salem, from 1960-1964. “He loved being mayor,” commented Tom. “He would drive the street sweeper and work in the sewers, if needed. He wouldn’t ask anyone to do something that he wouldn’t do. He was easy-going and kind hearted.”
Russell was featured on a news segment by nationally known news anchor, Walter Cronkite. Cronkite’s feature included video of Russell driving the street sweeper. “He was good with budgets and working with people,” stated Etzler. “He ran a smooth administration and got along with all the city workers. He was very affable. You just can’t say enough good things about Russell.”
“He was very patient, gentle and good tempered,” recalled Theiss Bills, Russell’s granddaughter. “He was very tall and thin. He liked people and was committed to his family and his community. He was slow to anger and always more concerned about others than himself. I remember one time when there was an accident in town, and he stopped to clean up the broken glass on the street.”
Russell, along with several other community minded individuals, worked very hard to support the Hopewell School, later named the Lee John Fultz School. This was a school for special needs children that opened in 1954 and closed around 1990. “I remember going with him to he school on weekends. He would do maintenance work or whatever was necessary,” remembered Theiss. “He took a lot of pride in that school. It was important to him because he knew the kids needed what the school provided: education, wheel chairs, and there was no other way to get those things without the school.”
“As a human being, he was the best,” stated Emily Hendricks, who served as Treasurer for the school when Russell was President.
“He hired the teachers,” recalled Don Martin, long time friend and board member for the school. “ He made sure to pick the teachers that had a true love for the kids.”
While the school was in operation, the Trustees worked hard to raise money, which was placed in a reserve fund, should the school ever need it. During 2001, the remaining members of the board decided to place the remaining funds in the Washington County Community Foundation, and receive a matching grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The fund has been named the Lee John Fultz/Russell Trueblood Touch Tomorrow Fund. The earnings from the fund will be used to issue grants that support our community in a variety of ways. “I think he would be pleased with this fund,” commented Theiss. “He liked doing things for the community. He would be pleased that this fund is open and can meet future needs that are not known today.”