Fairfield (CT) Fire Chief (Ret.) David W. Russell, Jr., age 85, of Fairfield, the beloved husband of the late Margaret Galvin Russell, passed away on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at St. Vincent’s Medical Center with his loving family by his side. Born in Bridgeport on November 26, 1927, he was a lifelong Southport and Fairfield resident and graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas School and Roger Ludlowe High School. In his youth he often rode along with the Southport Volunteer Fire Department and his father, Fire Chief David W. Russell, Sr.. At 17 he joined the United States Navy and served on submarine chasers during World War II. He received the American Theatre Medal and WWII Victory Medal prior to his discharge on July 14, 1946 as Seaman 1st Class.
He was sworn in as a member of the Southport Volunteer Fire Department while home on leave on March 11, 1946, four months prior to leaving the U.S. Navy. He later became a member of the Fire Brigade at Chance Vought Aircraft where he worked until the company moved to Texas, when he joined his father’s Insurance and Real Estate Business in Southport. On November 13, 1954, he was hired as a paid firefighter with the Fairfield Fire Department, and was assigned to Station #4 in Southport where he made a highly publicized rescue of a baby from a smoke-filled bedroom, earning him a commendation from the Board of Fire Commissioners and the New York News Vamp Award. Four years later in 1958 he was promoted as one of the first six lieutenants within the Department.
In 1962 Russell was appointed as the first captain in the history of the Fairfield Fire Department. He formed the Scuba Team shortly after his appointment and worked in the following years to improve rescue apparatus and add EMS to the services provided by the Department. In October of 1975 after the passing of the Fairfield Fire Department’s first career Chief, Joseph Stopa, Russell was made Acting Chief and Fire Marshal. On March 7, 1976, he was appointed Chief of Department and shortly thereafter passed the position of Fire Marshal to Captain Clarence Darrow. In his fifteen year tenure as Chief Russell formed the Connecticut Career Fire Chiefs Association and served as a vocal advocate for the creation of a Connecticut Fire Academy. He worked closely with C Darrow to pass a local ordinance for the Town of Fairfield requiring smoke detectors in every home years before it became state law. He brought physical fitness programs to the Fairfield Fire Department to improve the wellness of his personnel and enhanced their safety by providing better personal protective equipment, including fire-resistant hoods, and bunker pants and individual air masks for their self-contained breathing apparatus.
After retiring from the Fairfield Fire Department on January 1, 1991, Russell never missed a day of work–volunteering tirelessly at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, St. Anthony of Padua Church, and the many other organizations he served in the two-plus decades that followed. He was a founding member and Director of the Connecticut Career Fire Chiefs Association, the Gaelic American Club, and the Fairfield Municipal Federal Credit Union. He was a lifetime member of Southport Volunteer Fire Department and Port 5 Naval Veterans Association, and an active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9427, Sampson WWII Navy Veterans, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Connecticut Fire Marshals Association, Stratford Kiwanis Club, YMCA of Fairfield, Wakeman’s Boys and Girls Club, and the Roger Ludlowe Class of ‘45 Reunion Committee. A proud member of the Boy Scouts of America since his youth, he served as Chairman of its Health and Safety Commission and was Supervisor of Boat Rescue at their National Jamborees in 1969 and 1973. Russell and his late wife Marge were devout parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua Church.
In 1957 he and Margaret Galvin of Bridgeport, known to her family and friends as Marge, were married. Their two sons David and Michael joined the Fire Department of New York and Greenwich Police Department respectively, while their twin daughters became teachers, Terese at the Greenwich and Wilton Public Schools and Eleanor at St. Pius and McKinley Schools in Fairfield and the Monroe Public Schools. Chief Russell is survived by three children: David W. Russell III and his wife April of Pound Ridge, NY, Eleanor Macfarlane and her husband John of Monroe, and Terese Flaherty and her husband William of Sudbury, MA; his daughter-in-law, Amy Yantorno of Greenwich; eight cherished grandchildren, David W. Russell IV, Lizzy Russell, Mickey Russell Jr., Maggie Flaherty, Anna Flaherty, Erin Macfarlane, Jake Macfarlane, and Kate Macfarlane. In addition to his wife he was predeceased by his son Michael E. Russell, daughter Lauren T. Russell, granddaughter Ellie Flaherty, and brother Edward M. Russell.
Friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian Burial on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:00am at St. Anthony of Padua Church. Interment with full Military Honors to follow in Oak Lawn Cemetery. Friends may greet his family on Thursday, September 5, 2013 from 2:00-8:00pm at the Shaughnessey Banks Funeral Home, 50 Reef Road in Fairfield. Donations may be made in his memory to the Bridgeport Hospital Foundation, Connecticut Burn Center, 267 Grant Street, Bridgeport CT 06601 or foundation.bridgeporthospital.org; St. Vincent’s Foundation, Employee Giving Campaign, 2800 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06606 or give.stvincents.org; and Port 5 Naval Veterans, 69 Brewster Street, Bridgeport CT 06605. To send an online condolence, please visit www.shaughnesseybanks.com.