In memory of

Russell Virley Elliott

July 4, 1936 -  October 22, 2022

Loving, generous, adventurous, curious, accomplished and brilliant, a spiritual seeker and a deep and creative thinker, with an immense zest for life, Russell dropped out of school at 14 to support his struggling family. At age 20, he returned to complete his schooling and discovered a love of science, leading him to a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics. He was deeply loved and will be missed by his children, Tammy (Tamara), Tracy, David, and Jennifer; grandchildren, Aaron, Adrian, Elisa, Michaela, Julian, and Sean; great-grandson, Noah; his brother Jim; sister Sharon and his many close nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a charity selected by the family or of your own choice. The charity links can be found under the donation tab.

Russell wrote a number of autobiographical stories about his life that we wanted to share. To find them, navigate to "My Story" > "Life Stories" on the top menu of this page. We have also shared photos of him through the years that can be found by navigating to "Photos" > "Photo Gallery" on the top menu.

A recording of the funeral service is now available by navigating to Media > Videos on the menu at the top of the page.


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Georgia Josephs (Friend)

Entered October 30, 2022 from Toronto

Forever in our hearts, rest in peace Russell.

Tanis MacDonald (Friend of Tamara and Ian)

Entered October 30, 2022 from Waterloo, Ontario

I was lucky enough to know Russell through my friendship with his daughter Tamara and her partner Ian. I was even more lucky to be included in many family gatherings in the years I lived in Toronto in the 1990s, and often saw Russell at the centre of his loving family, surrounded by a swirl of grandchildren. At those gatherings and on other occasions, Russell and I often had long conversations about creativity and politics, and I appreciated his curiosity, open mind, and caring spirit. That spirit and his good parenting was instrumental in the formation of my wonderful friend Tamara, for whom I will always be grateful to Russell. My condolences to everyone in the Elliott family at this hard time, and wishing you all the best memories of Russell.

Janet Tetreau (Niece)

Entered October 30, 2022 from McCord, SK

My deepest sympathy Tammy, Tracy, David and Jennifer. Your Dad always wore a big smile. I remember him fondly.
Thinking of you and sending you each a hug.

Tim & Beth Hotchkiss (Hotchkiss cousin)

Entered October 30, 2022 from Port Elgin, ON

We are saddened that Virley has graduated. Yet We are all on the way. We mourn with you, his family.

Jennifer Scherle (Tracy’s family friend)

Entered October 30, 2022 from Aurora

Sending our sincere condolences to you Tracy, Mort, Jillian, Adrian & Elisa. May your canal memories and time shared with your dad live in your heart forever! Love, Jenn and sons 😘

Life Stories 

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Jennifer Elliott (Daughter)

Entered October 31, 2022

Starting School

Our family moved from our farm near the village of Little Rapids Ontario, which is about 60 miles from Sault Ste Marie, to Southern Ontario in about 1941, I think, so that my father could take a job in a factory in St Catherines, Ontario to help with the war effort. I do not remember the circumstances, but he was injured on the job and had to leave. I don’t remember what his injury was, but I think it had something to do with poison gas and he was sick for quite a while. He then took a job on a farm near St. Catherines in the St. Davids fruit orchard area. The farmer's name was Mr. Butler, a famous name in the area.

We lived in a house owned by the farmer and I started school there. It was a tough school, most of the kids were children of the migratory workers who came during harvest. I had a terrible time, because I was such a Mummy’s boy and cried at the slightest provocation. We were learning to read and since I had not learned to read before starting school, I was completely overwhelmed by the task. I was such a nuisance, I must have driven the strict male school teacher crazy because he eventually put me out under a tree in the school yard to learn to read. That didn’t last long. I promptly ran home, only to meet a very suspicious mother who marched me right back. She had a talk to the teacher and then left. I don’t know what she said, but after that everything changed and I did learn to read quite soon. I remember it quite well. I felt a real sense of accomplishment. It was as though I realized that I could do it and did not need to cry any more!

For some reason we left that lovely area and moved to the Windsor Ontario area in Essex County where dad had found a job in the dairy farm division of Walker Farms. This was a large hobby farm owned by the Hiram Walker Distillery family. Here is a description of the farm:

We (my mother, Jerry and I) left the Butler farm a few weeks before Christmas 1942 and took the train to Toronto to stay with Aunt Frances in her boarding house in Malton (I think). I remember the place quite well. Lot’s of big verandas. We also got to know some of her boarders, two of whom later became Uncle Bob and Uncle Don. I think dad had already started working at Walker Farms

I remember that we were staying with Aunt Fran during the Christmas of 1942 and that Aunt Catherine and Uncle Bob got married during that week because Jerry and I attended the wedding ceremony. I also remember that my mother was in the wedding party, I think and that she had a very bad cold or maybe even the flu. Anyway she was very sick and there was some doubt that she would attend. Well, Uncle Bob took over and plied her with brandy so that during the wedding she was not only sick, but drunk!

Jerry and I were sitting with responsible adults, possibly our father, during the ceremony and after the minister said; “I pronounce you man and wife”, my brother Jerry, who was sitting beside me, said in a voice that everyone could hear: “Well, we can call him Uncle Bob now”. It brought the house down.

Another thing I remember about staying with Aunt Fran was that I went to school for a couple of weeks in the new year and that there was lots of snow. I also remember walking to school with a pretty girl who lived quite near us. Her father was a policeman. I recall being was teased about it by Uncle Don, I think. Then we travelled from Malton toWindsor (Walkerton, actually) by train and then on to Walker Farms, probably by city bus.

We arrived at Walker Farms when I was about half- way through grade one (about six and a half years old) and left there to go back to Sault Ste Marie in about October or November 1945 when I was nine years old and in grade four. I think Jerry was in grade one.

The workers at Walker Farms lived in semi-detached farm houses arranged in a circle around a central field. The people who lived next door to us were from Hungary. Their name was Taiko. They had a boy about my age named Johnny, whom I hardly remember, and a 20-year old daughter named Theresa who had one leg shorter than the other (I’m not making this up) and walked with a limp.

While at Walker Farms, we had several visits from Aunt Frances and she used to take Jerry and I to the movies, We would go in during daylight and come out when it was dark. It was wonderful. She was so much fun. She called one of us satin-faced-Elliott and the other pansy-faced-Elliott. I can’t remember which, but I do remember feeing quite possessive about the name she gave me. We sure had lots of fun with her.

While there, we also had other visitors as well. For example Don Cameron, who later became Uncle Don came to see us with Aunt Fran. He had to leave earlier than she did and went back to Toronto by airplane. It was a DC-3 with a small rear wheel. We went to the airport to say good-bye and were close enough to the airplane to see him in a back window. We watched it taxi away.

Another of our visitors was Aunt Alice. It was summer and I remember that one day she wore bright yellow shorts and halter top when she was inspecting our huge vegetable garden. As it turned out the next day, we were not the only ones who saw Aunt Alice’s outfit because pretty soon Theresa Taiko came out to inspect the Taiko’s garden, wearing a skirt and a brassiere. She only did it only once! Actually she was a very nice person and was very friendly to us kids.

Another thing about this time, is that when we went any longer trips, we usually traveled by train, which was one of the great thrills of my life. I would stand out on the platform, plastered against the station wall and absolutely terrified and elated at the same time as the huge, noisy steam engine swept by the platform. Everybody else stayed inside. I don't know why my parent permitted this.

It was a great disappointment that when we moved back to Sault Ste Marie, we went by bus, not train. We crossed over from Windsor to Detroit and went up to the “Soo” through the American side. Our family took up the whole back seat and I remember being nauseous for the entire 20 hour trip. Colin would have been about seven months old at the time.

Jennifer Elliott (Daughter)

Entered October 31, 2022

The Homecoming

It caught me completely by surprise…

On a trip with my brother Colin in the spring of 2004 to visit friends in Saskatchewan, we drove over to Radville to visit the graves of J.C. and Myrtle Bailey who are buried there. Afterwards, we went across the river to where the campus of Radville Christian College had been situated. The Administration Building was the only College building left standing. It had been revamped since the time I knew it and adapted to the uses of the present owners, but it was unmistakably the “Admin Building”. As I was looking at it through the bushes, I felt the hair on the back of my neck start to rise and I found myself taking short breaths to control my emotions. My eyes filled with tears as the sight of that old building drew me back 48 years to my arrival at the school where my present life had started.

…It was a moment that seemed to go on forever.

Actually, my present life had really started in January 1956 when Mr. J. C. Bailey, a minister in the church my family belonged to and a family friend accepted a dinner invitation from my mother when he was in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario holding a gospel meeting. At some time during dinner, he looked at me with that intense direct look, which those who knew him will remember, and he said: “Virley, you should go to school”. I was caught off guard. I told him that I had always wanted to finish high school, but since my father had died, I was needed to help support the family. I had been working since I had quit high school at age 14. I first worked with my father on our farm near Thessalon Ontario and then when we moved to the Sault when I was 16, I had worked at various (mostly manual labour) jobs before getting a permanent job at the Algoma Steel Corporation in March 1955.

Well, JC started to explain how it could be done. He said that I should go to Radville Christian College in Saskatchewan, because I would be among Church people, some of whom were relatives or family friends so that I would not feel out of place. Perhaps the clincher was that since Saskatchewan did not have Grade 13, I would finish high school a year earlier than if I stayed in Ontario. He suggested that our family would be taken care of because my brother Jerry, who was just finishing high school, could help support the family and my mother could get mother’s allowance to help with expenses.

I was able to save enough money for board and tuition in time to start Radville Christian College (RCC) in September 1956, at age 20. I remember the first time I saw the Administration Building. I had heard so much about RCC and what a great place it was, but I was disappointed to find that the Admin building needed paint and looked run down. However it was the center of the school and it was humming with activity. It housed the classrooms, the kitchen and dining room as well as the library and teacher’s offices. It also housed the boy’s dormitory where I stayed. The boys “dorm” occupied a couple of large rooms at one end of the building with a few privacy partitions and many iron bunk beds. I got a lower bunk. The dorm turned out to be fine, although it was quite a shock at first.

I was put into Grade 11, which was populated by 16 year-olds with whom I got along very well. I had been given a second chance and I was not going to miss it, so I worked hard. Strangely enough, I did not feel out of place. I loved Saskatchewan with its big sky and it felt as though I had come home. I remember those charmed, golden days with great fondness.

Mr. Cecil Bailey was the principal and Miss Lillian Torkelson (Miss T) was the vice principal. Mr. David Olson, Mr. John Bailey, Miss Shirley Lewis (now Mrs. Straker), Mrs. Williams and Miss Rita Lewis (now Mrs. Davidson) were the teachers.

When I arrived, I knew I did not like algebra because I could never figure out where “x” came from or what to do with it. However, because there were few choices, I had to take it. Miss Torkelson (Miss T) was the teacher. About three weeks after school started, Miss T asked the class for the answer to an algebra question she had put on the blackboard. I had an answer, but I waited because I felt out of depth in a room full of people who knew what x was. No hands went up despite intense desk activity. Finally, I put my hand up and tentatively gave an answer. Miss T said: “That is correct Russell”. Wow! That event remains an academic high point for me. After that, I had little trouble with algebra and grew to really like it.

In terms of activities, I joined everything and found that I had a small gift for acting and acted in three or four plays. Miss T was the organizer, play director and mainstay of our theatre group. I do not know whether Miss T had formal drama training, but she made it work and it enriched the lives of the student actors and the audiences. I also confirmed that I had a negative gift for choir and I think, in fact I’m almost sure, that I heard cheers when I told them I was leaving. I played touch football and other sports except hockey. This included swimming in Long Creek, which was located about fifty feet behind the girl’s dorm. In the fall, we swam until it was too cold and in the spring we started when the water was so cold it burned. As I recall, we swam almost every day when the water was warm. In winter, we went skating on Saturday night at the Radville Arena (beyond the gaze of teachers and dorm monitors). It was great fun.

At RCC, there was a sense of urgency to get things done in spite of inconveniences. Although the school had a make-do attitude, it did not let it interfere with the standard of excellence that was practiced by the staff and expected of the students. Excuses were not part of the curriculum. I now see that this helped to instill resourcefulness and was a deliberate goal of the educational experience that we were being provided with. The students went along with it because of the caring shown by the staff. Like a family, we were all in it together, and every student was required to do “kitchen duty” or other essential jobs to keep the place running.

Also, there was an air of cultivated eccentricity at RCC, which was encouraged (exemplified?) by the principal, and taken up by the teachers and many of the students. They were a lively lot. For example, Mr. Olson was the official school barber by virtue of the fact that he owned a pair of hair clippers. To paraphrase Mark Twain: “He did not charge much for his haircuts and they were worth it”. Then there was the printing press. It was a big, noisy, motor-driven, hand-operated monstrosity, taller than an office desk and more than 300 pounds in weight. It required a considerable amount of skill, courage and coordination to operate. It was quite dangerous, but no one was hurt because it was known to be dangerous. When I was there, it was operated primarily by students and used to great advantage to print items such as flyers, newsletters and school yearbooks. Such work is now composed on a computer and printed using laser or ink-jet printers.

We went to Church services in the town of Radville across the river from the school. It was over a mile away and we usually walked. The trip was cold in winter and we often took a short cut across the frozen river. I remember mostly pleasant experiences about the walks to and from Church. Sometimes we got rides. Among the interesting extracurricular activities for many of the male students including myself, were Saturday jobs at local farms picking rocks off the fields. It was hard work, but the pay was good (90 cents per hour). The farmers liked us because we worked hard. The farmers’ wives used to feed us wonderful meals. I liked it.

At the school, we had study period for two hours every evening and I did my homework faithfully because I had the ghost of a career in a steel mill to provide incentive. The study periods were sometimes informal, in the sense that there was an undercurrent of joking and fun (courtship?) going on. The students were irrepressible and some were very good at making clever remarks disguised as innocent comments. I still remember a few. Sometimes we had impromptu discussions about religion, philosophy and science.

By the time I finished that year at RCC, I had developed a sense of what I might do in life and the feeling that I could do it. I had been given an opportunity to explore my capacity as a thinking person. I am very grateful for the intervention by J. C. Bailey in January 1956. It changed my life.

Also, in addition to academic explorations, I met people from all parts of Saskatchewan and the neighboring provinces and US states. The College acted as a center for Church life and people would congregate there for meetings and special events. Also, there was Homecoming and other alumni gatherings that brought former students back to the campus. Thus, RCC provided an unusually rich opportunity to meet people and by the end of the year I had formed a community of friends and acquaintances, some of whom have become life-long friends. During my time there, I essentially created, or rather had created for me, a whole new life.

I wrote the Saskatchewan Departmental Grade 11 Final Examinations at Radville High School in June 1957 and obtained an 87% average, with my best mark in algebra (Miss T) and good marks in history (Mr. Bailey). I still remember how exciting I found European history to be, especially the French Revolution. The physics and chemistry courses, which I took from David Olson, sparked an enduring interest in science and I received high marks in both subjects.

At the end of my year at Radville Christian College, the school moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan to become Western Christian College. As a result of “non-academic” activities that occurred during my stay at RCC, I married Mavis Bailey in September 1957 and we settled in Regina where I enrolled in the Matriculation course at Regina College in lieu of Grade 12. For the record, after that life-giving year at Radville Christian College I went on to eventually obtain a Ph.D. in physics (due in large part to unflagging support from Mavis).

As the image of my arrival at Radville Christian College began to fade and I found myself just looking through tear-filled eyes at the former Administration Building, I started to think how different my life had become as a result of that year at RCC, compared to what it might have been had I not gone. I had just been privileged to see, in some mysterious way, the moment when my path had changed.

Jennifer Elliott (Daughter)

Entered October 31, 2022

My father wrote a number of autobiographical stories about his life that we have shared below.


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