Russell Edwin Niemi, 77, of Wake Forest, North Carolina passed away on October 17, 2019. He is survived by his wife of 54 years Rosalie Niemi, daughters Wendy Niemi Kremer (Ian) of Herndon, Virginia and Gloria Niemi Bowden (Scott) of Park City, Utah, grandson Lucas Kremer of Herndon, Virginia, sisters-in-law Harriett Lindstrom of Downer’s Grove, Illinois and Marlene Morrison (Lester) of Macomb, Illinois, plus six nieces, their spouses and several great-nieces and nephews. Russ adored his family and treasured spending time with them.
Russ was born on April 27, 1942 in Waukegan, Illinois, a second generation Finnish-American and the only child of Oiva and Irene Niemi. While his father was serving in World War II, Russ spent much of his early years with his cousins and de facto sisters Marlynn and Judy. The three of them were quite a trio, getting into mischief while chattering away in Finnish.
Russ enrolled at the University of Illinois in 1960 to study electrical engineering. There he met the love of his life, Rosalie. They were set up on a blind date by their respective roommates and hit it off immediately.
Following graduation, Russ and Rosalie married on June 26, 1965. Russ accepted a job with General Electric and they moved to the Kansas City area for what was supposed to be a short training assignment. They ended up living happily in the area for 46 years, where they were actively involved in the community and their churches. They welcomed their daughters Wendy and Gloria while living in Overland Park, Kansas.
Russ became an avid runner in the early 1970s and left an indelible mark on the running community in Kansas City. He served as race director of the Hospital Hill Run, which grew to one of the largest road races in the midwest and was the editor of MasterPieces, the newsletter for MARA (the Mid-America Running Association). In addition to numerous road races, he ran 11 marathons around the country, including the New York City marathon.
Russ spent his entire 38-year professional career with General Electric in the area of industrial electrical systems sales and design. While he was a talented engineer, he found the most joy in his work from interacting with clients and co-workers. Russ retired in 2002 and focused a good deal of his energy on his golf game. He could frequently be found on the links of Shadow Glen Golf Club, where he was known not only for his precise golf abilities but also his humor on the course. His golfing buddies could count on many laughs over 18 holes.
He also explored his creative side, developing a passion for photography and graphic design. He spent countless hours taking and editing photos and developed a keen eye for angles, lighting and detail. If any organization needed a beautifully designed brochure, Russ was the first to volunteer. Russ and Rosalie enjoyed many travels, especially to destinations that combined Rosalie’s love of gardening and Russ’s love of photography, such as trips to the Chelsea Garden Show in London and the gardens of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Russ and Rosalie moved to Wake Forest in 2011 and immersed themselves in activities at Wake Forest United Methodist Church, their neighborhood of Heritage and local organizations such as the Wake Forest Camera Club. Russ particularly enjoyed singing in the church choir as a member of the tenor section. With his usual enthusiasm, he also contributed to the choir as its President and by creating beautiful monthly calendars, taking pictures, and producing the choir directory.
While Russ was a man of many talents, his family and many friends will remember him as a gentle soul who always greeted us with a smile and a kind word. We will miss his quick wit, clever puns, beautiful photographs and loving heart.
A service celebrating Russ’s life will be held on Friday, October 25 at 11:00 AM at Wake Forest United Methodist Church. Donations in his memory can be made to Tri-Area Ministries Food Pantry, 149 E Holding Avenue, Wake Forest, NC 27587 or Wake Forest United Methodist Church, 905 S Main Street, Wake Forest, NC 27587.
A service of Bright Funeral Home & Cremation Center, 405 S Main St. Wake Forest, NC 27587.