Wesley Joe Russell, Sr., 90, passed away July 16, 2014, at Heartland Regional Medical Center.
He was of relatively small stature, at 5 feet 7 inches, but he stood tall throughout his life while growing up on a Missouri farm. He learned several professions and served with distinction as a United States Marine. He faced combat during World War II in the Marshall Islands and in the Pacific.
Joe was not a man of limitations. His careers ranged from the hot sands of the Pacific, fighting Japanese troops, to the freezing temperatures of a cold storage unit in Elwood, Kansas (Affiliated Foods). His talents ranged from creating donuts at a St. Joseph bakery at the age of 16, to whipping up donuts for tough, combat-experienced troops in the Pacific fighting zones.
Joe was born August 1, 1923 on a farm in Elmer, Missouri. His parents were Lottie Bragg-Russell, and Frederick William Russell. At an early age Joe moved into the home of an aunt and uncle in St. Joseph. At age 16, in 1939, he went to work at a donut shop on Frederick Avenue, owned and operated by cousins. Later it became the Gold-N-Glaze Donut Shop, still in operation. In 1943 as World War II raged, he went to Kansas City to report to a Navy Receiving Station. While there, a Marine Sergeant came by asking for volunteers. Joe joined. The Marines sent him to Hawaii and later the Marshall Islands, where he was assigned to Heavy-Weapons Unit. Later, in the Solomon Islands, he persuaded some Navy personnel to provide him with ingredients to make donuts, as he had done in the States. This led to assignments in various military bakeries, and contributed to his nickname, “Donut Joe”.
In 1946 Joe returned to Gold-N-Glaze Donut Shop in St. Joseph, Missouri. Years later he was offered a job with Affiliated Foods. Joe worked in frozen foods with constant 12 degree temperature. He remained there until he retired in 1989.
On December 21, 1947, Joe married Virginia Lee Hensley. Virginia died March 18, 2003.
Joe’s family includes Linda Jo Hazelwood (Gary, deceased), Debbie Jeschke (Don), Wes Russell (Pam), and granddaughter Shawna Russell (Gordon Gross), who was raised by Joe and Virginia. Seven other grandchildren. Seventeen great-grandchildren, and four great-great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. Sisters Ceola Sees, Utopia Russell, and his little dog Heidi. Joe was preceded in death by his parents, three brothers and one sister.
Donations in Joe’s memory may be sent to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) or the Humane Society.
Graveside Service and Interment: 10:00 A.M. Saturday, Memorial Park Cemetery. The family will receive friends 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. Friday, Meierhoffer Funeral Home & Crematory, where friends may call after 5:00 P.M. The procession will leave from Meierhoffer Funeral Home & Crematory.