Russell ‘Rusty’ Perkins
“Always in the key of C” - Russell ‘Rusty’ Perkins
Everyone loves a good drummer. They are a strange lot by their own admittance …never really playing music, but keeping the beat for everyone else to follow. If a song were played twenty times, the drummer would play it twenty different ways. It is what makes them so much fun, sitting in the back of the band and making it up every time they play. Welcome to Lt Colonel (Ret.) Russell Perkins.
Russ was born to Mildred and Woodrow Perkins on Dec. 10, 1945, in New Orleans, the youngest of four children. As they say, he got to Texas as soon as he could and spent his formative years in Mexia before setting his sights on serving the America he loved dearly and seeing the world.
Russ’ childhood undoubtedly formed the man he became later in life. He proudly told stories of escapades involving things like helium-filled cleaner bags that he and his friends lit and set aloft causing numerous reports of UFOs around the town; blowing up sidewalks after lighting too many fireworks together; lying under the train trestle while the train thundered overhead to feel the rumble. Suffice to say, Russ was a born dreamer, instigator, mischief maker and became a gifted leader and honorable man.
Aspiring to keep the beat for those around him, he became ‘first drum’ for the Mexia High School marching band under the direction of Joe Tom Haney. Marching at the Cotton Bowl half-time show and very nearly missing the bus, remained one of Russ’ fondest memories. He received degrees in sociology and criminology from Sam Houston State, although he isn’t sure if he earned them or they gave him the degrees to get him out of Huntsville. As he said, “I did four years in Huntsville for impersonating a student.”
In 1970, he entered the United States Air Force and retired after 23 years of service. He was the OIC of the Pacific Military Altitude Reservations Facility at Clark Air Base in the Philippines; Chief of Flight and Airspace Management at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin; Chief of Air Traffic Control Operations at Osan Air Base, Korea; Chief of Airspace Management-Air Traffic Systems for NATO/SHAPE Headquarters, Belgium; Director of Air Traffic Control Facilities Management; Chief of the Communications Support Division, Office of the Inspector General, Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio; Chief of Air Traffic Control Operations Division and Commander of 3395th Technical Training Group, Kessler Air Force Base, Mississippi.
There were many other memorable achievements while in the Air Force, but those will remain between friends. After retiring, he proudly represented Family Heritage Life Insurance Company for more than a decade and truly believed he was helping people with the cancer issues he ended up experiencing himself.
In between all of his assignments, he and his first wife, Patsy, had three incredible sons: Brian, Brad and Brett. Brian, a firefighter with the Pearland Fire Department, and his wife, Liz, have two sons, Lennon and Cohen. Brad lives in Mexia, and Brett, in North Richland Hills. All three of Russ’ sons inherited their father’s musical talent and love of sports. His stepdaughter, Candace Kinser, CEO of NZTIA, resides in New Zealand and was the daughter he never had.
In no particular order, he had a passion for his dogs, chicken-fried steak, cream gravy, Lone Star beer, Astrid’s pecan pie, Lavonne’s cinnamon rolls, anything chocolate, Wright’s barbecue, a good scam, collegiate sports – Hook’em, Horns! – March Madness, golf, poker, bridge, Rockport fishing, everything Texas, his Rattan Creek Park friends, war movies, golf shirts, and the ladies at Jim’s Restaurant on Hwy. 183. He hated hypocrites and mayonnaise. He never could park his truck without bumping the curb and saying, “Not my fault – the truck is too long.” There wasn’t a sport he couldn’t ace and ‘woe be’ to the person who believed him when he said he really did not know how to play pool.
Several years ago, Russ actually had to have knee surgery after an injury resulting from WATCHING football on TV, and had fallen off numerous ladders without serious injury. But, epitheliod hemangioendothelioma (EHE) was his greatest battle and one that he fought with absolute determination until it took him on Dec. 21, 2013. Special and heartfelt thanks to the many doctors, nurses and support staff he saw for their care and genuine concern over many months. Most of all, many thanks and lots of love to all of his friends and family for their constant encouragement and prayers.
He said he’d never die, and he hasn’t – he is still alive in the hearts of all of his friends and family. He joins his beloved parents in heavenly bridge tournaments and leaves his earthly family only in physical form. He wanted his brother Ron Perkins (daughter Heather), brother Richard Perkins (wife Gail and their sons Michael and Steven), sister Ada O’Steen (husband Danny, daughter Debbie and sons Rob and Spence), sons, grandsons, and stepdaughter to know that he truly loved them all. He adored and was greatly amused by his in-laws, once describing them as a family bush instead of a family tree – Roderick Fraser (wife Mary Caroline), Laurie Kunert (husband Jerry and their son Evan), Judy Wesen (husband Elliot and their daughters Sarah and Rachel), and Christian Carpenter (wife Safira). He also loved his three Standard Poodles, Angel, Chenille and his greatest dog-buddy Dude, more than he just about thought possible. For a man who never grew up with dogs, he became the ultimate dog-guy.
In celebration of his life, there will be a service at Cook Walden on Anderson Mill Road, Dec. 29, at 2 p.m., followed by a fellowship. An interment will be held at a military cemetery located on his sacred Texas soil at a later date. If you are so inclined, please make memorial contributions in his name to Meals on Wheels and More in Austin.
There wasn’t anyone with a greater joie de vivre than Russ. I am his wife, Claire Perkins, and I loved him with all of my heart. Russ, I know you are only temporarily invisible. Keep the beat – I will hear you. Bisous!!
To share condolences with Russ’ family please visit cookwaldenchapelofthehills.com.