by Dan McClelland
Ralph Russell, a man who has dedicated his entire adult life to community service and education in Tupper Lake, was honored Monday evening by two educational institutions to which he has contributed his time and service generously in past decades.
The reception for the LeBoeuf Street resident was held at the start of Monday's monthly school board meeting. The local board left its chambers for about 20 minutes to gather with BOCES representatives and family members in the elementary school library next door to honor Ralph.
“There's cake here!” Superintendent of Schools Seth McGowan told the 50 or so guests, pointing to a festively decorated cake in front of him. “-And the reason it's here is (to honor) Ralph Russell.”
“Ralph has been a friend to the school district and the community for as long as most of us can remember,” the school chief began. “Few names generate more respect here!”
“Ralph's heart is as big as a lion's!”
He said for decades Mr. Russell has been “a steadfast member” of the school community- as a coach, a board member, a BOCES board member...he has volunteered in so many things.”
Mr. McGowan said it was difficult to acknowledge all that Mr. Russell has touched in so many positive ways here over the years. “I can't remember a time when he hasn't been a positive influence” in our community.
He said he has been a huge role model for all local students and the community at large.
An engraved plaque listed just some of Ralph's accomplishments in theeducational arena here for over three decades: school board member- 1985 to 1996, volunteer basketball coach- 1987 to 2016, football booster- 1989 to present, chain gang member (working 10-yard markers at football games)- 1996 to 2012 and BOCES board member 1996-2016.
A very humbled Ralph Russell thanked Mr. McGowan and the board for the honor, saying he very much appreciated it. Visibly choked up, he said he only did what he felt he should do...and that was to participate the best he could.
He said during his adult life, and even now as his health fails, he has tried to “give his full effort.”
“Every little bit helps and trying never hurts,” he said of his personal philosophy of community service.
Next up was BOCES District Superintendent Stephen Shafer who said he could easily echo Mr. McGowan's sentiments about Ralph that evening.
“He's a true gentleman,” he said of the honoree, who served on the BOCES board for 20 years and 12 as its president.
You could talk to Ralph as easily about a new BOCES program and its benefits to a prognostication about the outcome of the current year's girls basketball season, he told the guests.
“I only did what I had to do for the students, because they are first,” Mr. Russell told him when he was presented with a BOCES certificate.
“It's all about participation...be honest and give your darndest!” Ralph noted.
Dennis Egan, a farmer from Brushton who succeeded Ralph as president of the BOCES board this year, presented him with a gallon of New York maple syrup, telling him he hoped it produced “many sweet memories” of his time with BOCES. “Thank you for all your hard work, Ralph!”
In addition to the members of the Tupper Lake School Board present were a number of BOCES board members who included Tom O'Bryan and Elizabeth Forsell. Also there was Jules Comeau of Long Lake, who retired from the board when Ralph did this year and who rode with him to many BOCES events over the years.
Many of Ralph's siblings and their spouses were in attendance Monday evening. They included his brother Mike and Mike's daughter Christina, his sister Sioux and her new husband, Bob Collier, his sister Sally Poirier, his sister Peg and her husband Irvin Cole of Malone, and his brother Tom and his wife Veronica of Clifton Park and Trout Lake.
by Dan McClelland