John Henry “Jack” Russell, who worked for the San Mateo Times for 39 years and was co-founder of the Peninsula Press Club, died Saturday (March 15) at age 87, according to an obit in the San Mateo Daily Journal.
Russell was born in San Jose, graduated from Fremont High School in Cupertino and served in World War II as an infantry Sergeant. After the war, he enrolled at San Jose State University and became editor of the Spartan Daily newspaper, where he met the love of his life, Marion Summers. They married in 1951.
He started at the San Mateo Times in 1952 where he was a reporter, columnist and editor. He retired in 1991.
“He was a wealth of knowledge,” said Micki Carter, who worked with Russell at the paper. “He was really such a sweet guy. He had an excellent sense of news.”
Carter, former managing editor of the Times, described Russell as a people person, saying that he would always look for “the story behind the story.”
“He was in the newspaper business back in the days when it was fun; when people actually depended on print for their information,” said Carter, who taught journalism at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont from 1996 to 2012.
John Horgan, a columnist for the San Mateo County Times who worked with Russell for almost 30 years, echoed Carter’s sentiments.
“That generation, by and large, existed in completely different era for journalism,” Horgan said. “I guess you could call it the golden years.”
Horgan said Russell was well versed on a variety of different subjects, which is one thing that made him a good editor.
Russell was on scene for some of the biggest news stories of the last half century, including the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, child star Shirley Temple Black’s bid for Congress in 1967 and the 1964 Republican National Convention at San Francisco’s Cow Palace.
Horgan remembered Russell as a sports enthusiast who loved boxing long after the sport’s heyday had come and gone.
“He was very bright, he was very well read,” Horgan said. “He appreciated art, he appreciated good writing.”
He said Russell was a Democrat back in the days when the majority of voters in San Mateo County were Republicans.
“When he was a younger man back in the 50s and 60s, San Mateo County was very conservative. It is nothing like it is now,” Horgan said. “A Democrat couldn’t get elected back then.”
In April 1963, Russell co-founded the Peninsula Press Club (now the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club). He was the first president of the club. Other founding members were vice president John Kane from the Redwood City Tribune, treasurer Vince Mager from the South San Francisco Enterprise Journal, secretary Mary Jane Clinton from the San Mateo Times, and program chairman Bob Foster from the Times.
He served as vice president of the San Francisco-Oakland Newspaper Guild.
Russell, a Belmont resident, was a member of the Sons in Retirement Branch 90 and a 10-gallon blood bank donor at Peninsula Memorial Blood Bank.
He is survived by his children Kevin Russell, Valerie Russell, Tracy Stoehr and his grandchildren Caleb Hanscom, Catherine and William Stoehr.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Belmont at 10 a.m. Friday, March 21, followed by a private interment. Due to Lent, no flowers please.
A public visitation will also be held on Thursday, March 20 from 6-8 p.m. at Crippen and Flynn Carlmont Chapel in Belmont. (Photo credit: Micki Carter)