Sunday, October 16, 2011

Russell Palmer 1936 - 2011

It is with sadness that I report that Elaine's father Russell Palmer, passed away peacefully on Sept 14, 2011.  Russell's health had been declining for the past nine months, after a serious head injury occurred last December.
Russell at a recent special event last year--  an opportunity ride in a special edition Ferrari.
Russell was in London in December for a business event, and for Christmas. While there, he sustained head injuries in a fall on stairs at the hotel he was staying. After a long stay in hospital in London, with complications in his recovery, he was transported back to a hospital in the U.S. near his home in Florida, for treatment and rehabilitation from the injury. Elaine, Susan, and Nathan travelled to visit him in February. Shortly after, it was determined that he had a small brain tumor, and entered hospice-- we will never know if the tumor caused, or was a result of the original trauma.  Elaine and I traveled to Florida in August to be with him, visiting him everyday until his passing.
Russell was a man of the world, with a part of his life in several corners. A celebration of his life was held in three locations-- Boca Raton, FL (his residence), Pasadena, CA (his birth place and family home), and Milwaukee, WI (company headquarters). A forth celebration gathering for friends and acquaintences will be held in Europe. (Russell lived in London for over 25 years, and spent considerable time in southern France).
Russell had a life long passion for motor racing, beginning in his youth in Southern California working for the Don Blair Speedshop, an early iconic group involved in land speed record racers. As a young man he entered the family publication business. He was able to bring his passions and business interests together in the trade magazine Diesel and Gas Turbine Progress, the flagship of a set of trade publications.  His business success allowed him to enjoy a very comfortable life, traveling the world, and a collection of Ferraris.
Russell was larger than life-- when he entered a room of people, he would often turn heads. He was an impeccible dresser, and quick witted. He could come up with the perfect quote, or a joke that fit the occasion.  He had many stories from his many experiences, and I suspect at least most of them were true, if maybe only embellished slightly.  His gift was to be able to easily connect  with whomever he met, and make them feel at ease.
Sadly, due to our busy lives, and the miles between our homes, I don't believe I really got to know Russell well.  Although I was always interested in learning more about his business and publications, any inquiries about them were usually answered in a modest and polite, but short answer, followed by a change of subject.  Russell, I found out, came to learn during his career that few people knew of or understood trade magazines, and more to the point, could not comprehend the technical content of his publications.  So instead of attempting complicated explanations, he found it more polite to avoid the discussion.
In the weeks following his passing, I have come to learn a lot about him, that I didn't know before.  The new knowledge helps explain a lot of the contradictions and mysteries of the man, and also makes me realize we had a lot in common.  I regret that we did not get to talk more, and discover these shared commonalities.
Our time in Singapore has been a mixed experience.  It has been a great opportunity to see South East Asia and experience another culture outside of the United States.  It has been a life changing experience for us.  However, it has also been a very difficult time to be so far away from friends and family, who are progressing with their lives, and some moving into declining health.  Despite the diminishing size of the world today, 10,000 miles is a very long distance to be apart from family members.
Russell ca 1970s.  In his early role with sugar and automotive trade magazine publishing, Russell frequently traveled to many interesting locations around the world.

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