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Dr. Charles Mervin Russell, Jr.

Dedicated pastor, pilot and missionary

Dr. Charles Mervin Russell, Jr., who resided in Upland and Claremont, died on January 22, 2015 in Pomona. He was 93.

He was born on December 12, 1921 in Miami, Florida to Ouida and Charles Mervin Russell. After graduating from high school in Florida, he attended Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois and Ausburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota before completing a bachelor’s degree at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. Dr. Russell received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Azusa Pacific University.

Dr. Russell served as a pastor in four Free Methodist Churches, then as a conference superintendent of the Minnesota, North Iowa Conference of the Free Methodist Church, a regional director of Free Methodist Youth and general superintendent of the International Free Methodist Youth.

Following his time of service with FMY, he was called to become president of World Gospel Crusades, a mission organization in Upland dedicated to spreading the word of Christ to people throughout the world. He later founded and served as president of Mercy Airlift, Inc. in Ontario, delivering desperately needed food and medical supplies as well as Gospels of John to troubled countries around the world.

Dr. Russell, known as Merv to friends and family, was publisher and editor of several Christian publications such as Youth in Action Magazine and Living Waters Notebook. He has authored three books, the most recent of which, My Angel Flew Along, shared many aspects of his flying ministry. He flew many planes throughout his life, including a DC3 he piloted all the way to Ethiopia and on many flights to Central and South America. Because of his love for flying, he was also a chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol. When Merv and his wife Leone retired, they ministered, living in Baja, California and Mexico. His plane literally became a lifeline for that whole area when torrential floods wiped out the roads leading north to Ensenada and Tijuana.

Dr. Russell was preceded in death by his son Mervin Dean Russell, who died in 2010. He is survived by his lovely wife of 72 years, Martha Leone; by his daughters, Joyce Landrey of Claremont and Janice Edwards of La Mesa, California; and by his grandchildren, Deanna Wasserman of West Sacramento, Dr. Christopher Landrey of East Tawas, Michigan, Dr. Justin Irving of Minneapolis, Minnesota, April Amoroso of Arroyo Grande, California, Michael Russell of Yucaipa, California and Jason Russell of West Sacramento. Dr. Russell also leaves 15 great-grandchildren. 

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