“Elder Gardner H. Russell of the First Quorum of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1986, 104
When Gardner Russell, newly called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, and his wife, Dorothy, were asked if they would be willing to accept an appointment to serve outside the U.S., they were prepared, having lived in Latin America for twenty-one years.
Gardner Hale Russell was born in Salt Lake City, but he grew up in Hamilton, Ohio. His father was a professor of Romance languages at Miami University in nearby Oxford.
Years later Elder Russell met Dorothy Annette Rich in the San Francisco, California, ward they both attended. At the time, he had returned from the Argentine Mission, graduated from Miami University, spent two years in diplomatic service in the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, attended Stanford Law School for a year, and was at present working for a steel company based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His work required frequent international travel. After their marriage, Brother and Sister Russell spent a six-week “honeymoon” in Venezuela, where Brother Russell was assigned to travel for his company.
Later the young family, including a five-month-old daughter, Cheryl, moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where a second daughter, Kathy, was born. The Church was not yet established there, so meetings were held on the porch of a member’s home at Guajataca, near Ramey Air Base. The average attendance was ten.
As Gardner Russell’s prefabricated home manufacturing business grew, so did the Church in Puerto Rico. He became the first district president of the Caribbean District, in those days part of the Southern States Mission. The Russells saw the establishment of the first branch in San Juan, its first missionaries, and, in 1970, the first chapel dedicated.
That same year, Elder and Sister Russell were called to the Uruguay Paraguay Mission.
On their return home to the United States, the family stopped in Florida at the invitation of a friend who wanted to consult with Gardner Russell in dealing with some problems in a company there. The Russells stayed. And since 1973, they have called Satellite Beach, Florida, home.
Their opportunities to serve in Florida have been many. Elder Russell served on the high council of the Orlando Florida Stake, as bishop of the Melbourne Ward, and as first counselor in the presidency of the Cocoa Florida Stake. Then for nearly five years they were back in Puerto Rico, where he served as regional representative.
In June of 1985, Gardner Russell was called as regional representative to the Miami and Orlando regions and began to feel settled and comfortable. “Perhaps too settled and comfortable,” observes Sister Russell, who has enjoyed having her grandchildren near her, working with the Young Adults, and teaching institute classes, while serving as the public communications representative in their area.
“My long love affair with Latin America,” says Elder Russell, “resumes with this call to the First Quorum of the Seventy. I am both humbled and excited to get down there and get to work. I return with a deep awareness of the profound changes that have occurred in Latin America over the last twenty-one years since I went there as a young man. The growth of leadership there has been wonderful to witness.”
Elder Russell’s service in commerce and industry has included nine years on the Board of Presbyterian Community Hospital in San Juan; vice-chairman, Board of Trustees for the Inter-American University; and the governor’s special appointee to the commission of Higher Education in San Juan.