Details for Russell Burchard French

Russell Burchard French passed away peacefully on his 92nd birthday at Cedar Crest Health Center. He was born to Suzanne Field and Russell Burchard in Connecticut in 1925. After his father passed away, Suzanne married Rodney French, and Russ spent his early years in Singapore with his sister, Betty, and brother, Courtney, both who predeceased him. After being commissioned into the U.S. Navy, he served in the Scouts and Raiders program, a precursor to the Navy Seals. He graduated from Colgate University, and began a long career in sales and marketing. He married Ruth Goodwin Gill in 1951 and they settled in Janesville in 1963, where he worked in the Premium Products Division at Parker Pen. During his career at Parker Pen, his passion for creative marketing and problem solving in an industry he loved led him into Board Leadership at the SAA in 1977-78. He earned the highest designation and recognition in the promotional products industry as a PPAI Hall of Fame inductee in 1994. During the ceremony, he spoke of living a life defined by Family, Faith and Fun. He lived that. After his retirement from Parker in 1979, he founded Sales Promotion Ideas with his wife Ruth and was later joined by his son, Rod, until his retirement in 1997. After Ruth passed, he married Elizabeth Orear in 1996, and they enjoyed 18 good years, having travel adventures around the world until her death in 2014. His lifelong commitment to community service was recognized by the United Way when he received the Geraldine Hedberg Alexis Tocqueville Society Award in 2000. He was nominated by ten organizations he had supported including United Way North Rock County, American Red Cross of South Central Wisconsin, SCORE, Janesville Literacy Council, Little Theatre, Kandu Industries, RCHS, Salvation Army, and Rotary Gardens. He was a Janesville Noon Rotarian for 52 years, and lived his life according to the Rotary 4 Way Test. He viewed volunteering as a lifelong obligation and had a bunch of fun doing it throughout his life. Age stopped him from donating blood for the Red Cross, but not until he was well past his 20th gallon donation.

He was an inspiration to all who knew him, and is lovingly remembered by his children: Rod (wife Michele, and her daughters, Tyler and Madison), Susan Harper (husband Bob), Lynn French Wood; his grandchildren: Amanda, Nathan, Emily, Ryan and Travis; two great-grandchildren, Vivian and Davis; and Elizabeth’s children: Tom, Susan and Jeff.

We share a rich heritage from him that we all carry with us, filled with many wonderful Russ stories, and we look forward to sharing them at a celebration of his life to be held in 2018. He came up with his own epitaph: A winner in life, not a loser in death! If you wish to do something to honor Russ’ life, make a donation in support of an organization that makes your community or the world a better place. That is what he would do.

The family thanks the Staff at Cedar Crest, for taking such good care of Russ during his time there. Special thanks to Teri Kelly, who has been like a daughter to our parents.