Philip Russell Obituary

Philip G. Russell
Philip G. Russell

July 25, 1950 - November 19, 2019
Born in Baltimore, MD
Resided in Niantic, Connecticut


Obituary for Philip G. Russell

Philip G. Russell, 69, of Niantic died November 19, 2019 in a car crash while in transit from the family vacation home in Vermont. Philip will be remembered for his zest for life, his breadth of knowledge, and, especially, for the many lives he touched.
Philip was born on July 25, 1950 in Baltimore, Maryland to the late Arnold W. Russell and the late Marion (Leatherman) Russell. A source of great pride to Philip was his Native American heritage through his mother whose ancestry included a Matriarch of the Mohawk Tribe. Philip treasured visits to relatives who resided at Akwesasne, the designated Mohawk lands by the St. Lawrence River in upper state New York. Philip more than lived up to the Indian name given to him at birth by his maternal grandmother. The name translates in English to “A Gathering of People”.
At a very young age Philip’s family moved to East Hartford, Connecticut, the community where Philip grew up. He graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a major in Accounting and a minor in Computer Science. After graduation he served two years in the United States Army during which he was stationed with the intelligence unit based in Germany. As leave time allowed he traveled to many European countries and experienced mountain climbing in the Swiss Alps.
Philip returned to Connecticut where he began a career within State service, initially as a forensic auditor investigating white collar crime and eventually advancing to become the internal auditor for the State Department of Education. It was during this time that he met his bride-to-be Carol who was an administrator with the now closed Seaside Regional Center in Waterford. Philip left his internal auditor position to become the chief school business administrator for the Waterford Public Schools. He and Carol married on January 2, 1982. At Philip’s suggestion part of their honeymoon preparation included scuba diving lessons so they could dive while in the Bahamas. They did.
The assignment with Waterford was the beginning of a long career in municipal service as the chief financial officer. Except for a stint as the finance director for the town of Guilford, these assignments remained within public education and included Norwich, Hartford, Clinton, and Milford from which he retired in 2011. Throughout this time Philip was an active member of the Connecticut Association of School Business Officials including a tenure as President and in 2009 being named co-winner of the Celebrated School Business Official award. Philip was known statewide as one of the “go-to” colleagues for problem solving and mentoring. When Philip worked for a school system he got fully engaged. For example, while in Clinton some teachers came over from the Ukraine on an exchange. Philip facilitated this process so well, that when it was time for the teachers from Clinton to travel to the Ukraine, although he was an administrator, not a teacher, he was invited to be part of the exchange group.
Philip had the “non-retirement” retirement. School districts often sought his expertise on special projects or interim assignments including Waterford, Project Learn, and Sprague. He was currently assisting in the New London and Berlin public schools.
Those who knew Phil often referred to him as a “Renaissance Man” because of his vast range of interests and expertise beyond school finance. Over the years Phil developed his skills in construction, auto mechanics, gardening, solar panels, and more. He played the guitar. He wrote a song. He authored a suspense thriller (yet unpublished), and he had recently copyrighted a humorous screenplay for a beer commercial. He thrived on learning new things. He had a keen analytical mind which he applied evenly between the stock market and football pools. Philip was an athlete. In his younger days he was an avid runner, including a run in the Boston marathon. He transitioned to tennis and has been a longtime player at the Lyme Shores Tennis & Conditioning Center where he was a well-respected member of Sure Shots, the champion team in the high-level Sunday League.
But what will be most remembered about Phil is his ready smile, his sense of humor, and the way he cared about all those with whom he would interact. He wanted to know you, and if the conversation led him to see he could meet a need, he would jump right in. This could be a major project or a simple kindness - and often the small things were the big things. We, his family, were especially privileged to have him in our life. He was a loving husband, and a devoted father, grandfather, brother, and uncle. He will forever be missed and forever loved.
Philip is survived by his wife, Carol (Gwiazdowski), his daughter Jill Roderick, his daughter Amy, his grandsons Griffin and Keegan Roderick, and his brothers Robert (and wife Jaqueline) of East Hartford, CT, George (and wife Deborah) of Manchester, CT, and Richard of Georgia. Philip was also uncle to five nieces and two nephews. Philip is predeceased by his beloved youngest daughter, Chelsea, who died at the age of 26 due to complications from a rare enzyme deficiency with which she was born. Philip donated a kidney to Chelsea at age nine which extended her life which she lived fully, with much joy, and during which, like her Dad, she touched the lives of many.
Early in Chelsea’s life Philip was the driving force to set up the Chelsea Foundation, a loan closet which provides free medical equipment to those in need. The foundation now honors Chelsea’s memory. In lieu of flowers memorial gifts for Philip may be directed to the Chelsea Foundation, 451 Meridian Street, Groton, CT. 06340.
Calling hours are Monday, November 25, 2019, from 5-8 PM at the Thomas L. Neilan & Sons East Lyme Funeral Home, 48 Grand Street, Niantic. A funeral service will be conducted at 11 AM on Tuesday at the funeral home. Condolences may be shared on Philip’s memorial page at




Calling Hours
Thomas L. Neilan & Sons East Lyme Funeral Home
48 Grand Street
Niantic, CT US 06357
Monday, November 25, 2019
5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Thomas L. Neilan & Sons East Lyme Funeral Home
48 Grand Street
Niantic, CT US 06357
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
11:00 AM

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