April 7, 1933 – February 10, 2022
Rio/DeForest, WI – Russell J. Nelson, age 88, passed away on Thursday, February 10, 2022, at his home, surrounded by his family.
Born on April 7, 1933, in Racine, WI, the son of Russell F. and Theresa M. (Reinhofer) Nelson. He graduated from St. Catherine’s High School in 1951. During High School he met Rosemary Vassh, the love of his life. He began his military career enlisting in the Air Force at the age of 18 during the Korean war. Russell (Russ) and Rosemary became engaged before he deployed. Russ was stationed in France at the Laon Air Force base.
Russ and Rosemary were married on Oct. 7th, 1953, at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Laon, France, during his deployment. The couple lived in France for three years and had two children during this time. They returned to Wisconsin in 1956, settling in the DeForest area where they had four more children. Russ was stationed at Truax Field in Madison, WI. He retired from the Air Force in April 1961, with 9 years of service.
Russ began his career as an Investigator for the State of Wisconsin in 1961. During the 1970’s Russ gained a college Degree in Criminal Justice. From 1967-1971 he worked as a Special Agent for the Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).
In 1971, he was promoted to Director of DCI, working special assignments for the Major Crime unit. He spent 18 years as Director. In 1976 he created and instructed a twice yearly, 2-week Death Investigation school, leading instruction for 13 years. The school continues on to this day and has brought unity between departments and thousands of law enforcement officers and agents across the state of Wisconsin. He retired in 1989, with 28 years as a State of Wisconsin employee.
After retirement Russ worked a few less stressful jobs allowing him to continue to travel throughout the state. Employed with Spinelli and Associates as a Private Investigator, and later as an Interviewer for Research Triangle Institute. He retired again in 2003 at the age of 70.
In 1997 Russ and Rosemary (Roni) moved from DeForest to rural Rio, WI where they purchased and developed a property they called “Century Oaks”. The setting provided peace and solitude in retirement, where he took pride in maintaining the grounds and many trails. The property also included a well-groomed fairway where Russ could enjoy his passion for golf. Many fond family memories were made enjoying ice cream (his favorite treat), hitting a bucket of golf balls and instructing eager grandchildren how to “earn” their golf cart driving license. Century Oaks became a favorite gathering place for many family celebrations.
Russ enjoyed following current events and had a wealth of knowledge from his life experiences. He was a natural leader, exceptional listener, and mentor. He enjoyed offering advice and supporting his children and grandchildren to achieve their goals.
He is survived by his children: Dain (Carol) of Naperville, IL. Katherine (Keith) Popp of DeForest, WI, Dale (Rose) of Oxford, WI, Karen (Jeff) Durst of DeForest, WI and Derek (Christi) of Hudson, WI; 15 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; his sister LaVerne Puchter of Ocontomowoc, WI and numerous nieces, nephews and friends. Russ enjoyed his cats: Tabby Sam and Mr. Boots which gave him comfort and companionship. He was preceded in death by his wife, Rosemary (Roni), his infant son, Wayne, his Parents, and Brother-in-Law, Richard Puchter.
Russ’s family wishes to extend a special thank you to recent visitors to his home, including (now retired) DCI colleagues Gary Hamlin, John Schulz, and Dave Collins. Also, many thanks to his supportive niece Kim Scholz. And lastly, thank you to the Agrace hospice team for their compassionate care.
Together, Russell and Rosemary were lifelong devout Catholics and lived their lives with a set of beliefs, values and traditions that has defined their legacy.
A private Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Olaf Catholic Church, with Fr. Jared Holzhuter and Fr. Kumud Chandra Nayak presiding. Burial will be held at St. Olaf Catholic Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial donations be made (in Russell Nelson’s name) to St. Olaf Catholic Church for grounds/cemetery enhancements.
Ryan Funeral Home & Cremation Services
6924 Lake Road