Life Story

Kenneth C. Russell

Obituaries in Geneseo, IL | Geneseo Republic

Kenneth C. Russell

Wataga - Kenneth "Ken" Russell, Illinois Fisheries Biologist, loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather passed away at his home January 19, 2022. He leaves behind his wife, three children, five grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Kenneth Cloyde Russell was born in Ossining, New York on July 17, 1939 to Cloyde Harlan Russell and Ruth Hazelton Cole. He is blessed with an older brother, Edgar Ernest Russell. Until he was 12 he swam in the Croton River, fished in the Hudson River and walked through the nearby woods of Mary Knoll Seminary looking for relics and listening to the life of the woods.

When he was 12 his father's job with the FDA took his family to Reynoldsburg, Ohio. There he befriended an older gentleman who taught him the woes and joys of coon hunting, another exposure to Mother Nature, developing his love of the outdoors and all the amenities within it.

After graduating from Reynoldsburg High School, Ken traveled west to Tarkio, Missouri, the home of

Tarkio College to pursue a degree in biology. Here he met the girl who has been by his side as his wife ever since, Janet Marlene Garst. After graduation, Ken chose the University of Missouri, Columbia for his graduate work in Fisheries biology. He took his first job in Illinois as a state fisheries biologist. He remained in that job for 53 years declaring it to be not a job but what he loved to do. Ken had the privilege of working with the finest colleagues and grew lasting friendships with the people of Illinois whom he served. Ken is known today by many people, some of whom received consultation about fish and especially the vast number of children whom he taught about the environment.

Ken was civic-minded and served on several boards, the longest of which was Sparta Township as clerk.

Ken's career brought him many awards that he was quite proud to receive. The one that was his proudest was the Aldo Leopold "Shack" award, a tribute to his environmental endeavors. He was given the honor of a monument at Lake Storey, a bridge at Citizen's Lake and the Ken Russell T Lake at Snake Den Hollow Fish and Wildlife area. Honors were important to Ken but his passion was to leave the earth a better place by teaching and sharing his knowledge with others.

Ken had many hobbies. He reconditioned an antique cider press and invited guests every Sunday to come and make cider. He loved Stearman planes and flew with his buddies at every opportunity. He participated in the corn husking days, enjoyed the plow days with his antique tractors, and was an avid gardener sharing his produce with friends and family.

Ken passed away with his wife by his side. Ken and Janet were blessed with three children: Merris Hennenfent, Beth Horton, and Daniel Russell; and two sons-in-law: Jeffrey Hennenfent and Brett Horton. They blessed them with 5 grandchildren: Emily, Ryan, Elizabeth, Sarah and Rachel. Emily and her husband John Lawrence presented them with their first great grandchild, Zella. Ken never missed an event for his children or grandchildren whether they were athletic events, theater, band, dance, cheerleading, or driving them in a wagon in local parades. They knew that dad or grandpa was always there in the wings watching. Ken's passions in life shine in the faces and hearts of his children and grandchildren and will be carried on for many generations.

Visitation for Ken will be 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, January 28, 2022 at Watson Thomas Funeral Home and Crematory, Galesburg. Funeral Mass will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, January 29, 2022 at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, Wataga, IL. Burial will follow at Wataga Cemetery, Wataga, IL. Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family at

Posted online on January 22, 2022

Published in Geneseo Republic