Russell Harry Kendall, Sr. drew his last breath at 1:15 on the morning of Monday, November 25, 2019 at Sherman Home Hospice in Scottsdale, AZ. When the window shades were open, he had a beautiful view of the Sonoran Desert that he loved so much, full of sage and cactus, hawk and hare.
He faced his death the same way he lived his life – with honor, with integrity and with bravery. When he died, just one day shy of his 84th birthday, he was at peace, not in pain, surrounded by people who loved him and at the end of a long and interesting life.
Two days earlier, on Saturday afternoon, reclining comfortably in his bed, Russ turned his head towards his wife of 55 years, Bonnie Kendall, who was sitting in a chair next to him. In a faint, raspy voice Russ said “you are so beautiful,” then nodded twice. Bonnie reached over to take his hand and for a moment each held the other’s gaze.
Those were the last words he ever spoke.
Later that day, when he experienced trouble breathing, a hospice nurse administered a breathing treatment – a small mask that let Russ breathe in vaporized albuterol to relax his lungs. Before putting the mask on him, she told him that the albuterol could make him jittery. Quick as a flash his bright eyes looked over to the family sitting with him. He winked once, then started shaking his torso from side-to-side, pretending to be jittery. He gave a final wink to the startled nurse then stopped.
Just a few months earlier, he was a spry 83-year-old who went to the gym three times a week, walked everyday and played pickleball. A diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma slowed him down a bit, but just a bit.
Of Russ’ many gifts was the intensity with which he was interested in other people and the speed with which he could put them at ease. He was as comfortable being the emcee of the birthday party of his 102-year-old-aunt, surrounded by senior citizens he’d never met, as he was speaking to a room full of NFL superstars and millionaires.
He was born to Harry and Patricia Kendall in Nevada City, CA in 1935.
As a boy he experienced a less than idyllic childhood. His mother passed of tuberculosis when Russ was 7 years old, his father Harry was not equipped to handle a curious hyper young boy. At 10 Russ, who at the time lived in a tiny silver bullet trailer with his father in the middle of the desert outside of Vegas, managed to drum up enough change to buy a bus ticket headed straight to Southern California where he found his late Aunt Rachel and Uncle Kenneth Hill. The end result of his journey landed him at the all boys Catholic St. John Bosco Preparatory boarding school located in the Bellflower, California. (The school today is very well known for a powerhouse football program.) Upon his arrival, Russ designed the very first school crest/logo and enjoyed years of excellent education with a steady dose of shenanigans that were the beginnings of Russ's layered and interesting life.
Later, as a young adult in 1955, he joined the United States Air Force and worked as a Drill Instructor at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX. During this time Russ had a brief marriage that resulted in the birth of his first born son, Russ Jr. When his military service was over, Russ went back to sunny California and in the early months of 1964 Russ met the love of his life, Bonnie Spriggs, who at the time was working in Burbank, CA. The couple fell head over heals and wed later that same year. They had two children, Gigi and Kelly.
Russ moved through several jobs before landing in the Advertising Department at Marbon which later became Borg Warner. He had a very successful, creative and exciting career making many life long friends from his time at Borg Warner in Parkersburg, WV. He and his colleagues were truly the 'Mad Men' professionally speaking of their time.
After leaving Borg Warner, Russ and Bonnie moved to Paradise Valley AZ and became entrepreneurs, starting and selling several business. Enjoying success and failures, Russ never lost that Irish twinkle in his eye or spirit. Before he retired, Russ and Bonnie purchased a small little screen print company they named Sierra Screen Printing, which they grew from 2 employees to more than 30. Sierra had many National accounts including, 7-11, Fry’s, Circle K among others. Russ was awarded many accolades. One of his favorite awards was the Phoenix Small Business Person of the Year.
In his retirement he enjoyed painting, playing golf, walking, exercising, doing house projects (and the many trips to Home Depot those projects required.) A classic Russ story, when a friend asked if they could borrow his hatchet to split some firewood, upon realizing he did not own a hatchet, he hopped in his car, drove to Home Depot (of course) and bought one, giving it to the friend as a gift. But mostly, he enjoyed spending time with his wife, his kids, his grandkids and his great grandkids.
He leaves behind his wife: Bonnie Kendall, of Scottsdale, AZ, now residing in Alpharetta GA with her daughter Gigi; His son Russ Kendall Jr. and wife Therese, Bellingham, WA. His daughter Gigi Bair, Alpharetta, GA and son Kelly Kendall and wife Ava, St. Thomas VI.
His grandchildren are: Gus Kendall, of Bellingham, WA; TR Bair and spouse, Liz Bair, of Athens, GA; Tyler Bair and spouse Kelly Bair, of Athens, GA; Tatum Bair Williams and spouse, Alex Williams, of Athens, GA; Molly Bair Bentley and spouse, Rhett Bentley, of Atlanta, GA; .Konner Kendall and Karson Kendall of St. Thomas VI
His great grandchildren are: Aiden, Lane and Hudson Bair, of Athens, GA; Aleda and Margot Bair, of Athens, GA; Woods, Saylor and MaryArthur Williams of Athens, GA. Bair and Beauden Bentley, of Atlanta, GA;