USA Pentathlon Multi... Features In Memoriam: Colonel...

In Memoriam: Colonel John Russell

Oct. 07, 2020, 5:21 p.m. (ET)

Col John William Russell Sr

LTC John William Russell, Sr. was born February 2, 1920 to Harry and Rose Russell on a dairy farm in Harrisburg, PA. He died peacefully on September 30, 2020.

In his 100 years of life, he participated in a phenomenal number of adventures in the military and civilian worlds. John began his military career when he joined the 104th Cavalry which was a mounted National Guard unit with several hundred horses. In 1943 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the Cavalry and fought in World War ll in Africa, Italy, and Germany. He was wounded at Casino for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. His decorations included the Soldier's Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, World War ll Victory Medal, Army of the Occupation Medal with German Clasp, National Defense Service Medal, and Honorable Service Lapel Pin WW ll. After the war, he served with the 18th "Blue Devil" Division in northern Italy where he helped liberate several horses, some of which helped to form the United States Olympic equestrian team. John's riding activities took him all over Europe and the United States where he had been assigned to Ft. Riley, Kansas. Before the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki, he became the first foreigner ever to win the Hamburg Spring Derby riding a Texas-bred Quarter horse named Rattler. He competed in the 1948 and won a Bronze Medal in the 1952 Olympics.


(L-R) Captain Antonio Reimao of Portugal, Major John Russell, Major Fernando Paes of Portugal and Sgt. 1st Class Norman Brinker mid-conversation at the Olympic Games Helsinki 1952.

In 1956, John ended his competitive career and became coach of the US Modern Pentathlon when it was located in San Antonio and after it moved to Denver he continued to be one of its staunchest supporters. LTC Russell was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum, received the United States Hunter and Jumper Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame.

LTC Russell is survived by his wife, Shane, his oldest son, John W. Russell, Jr. and wife Ruth, and grandsons, William and McLean Russell, and his youngest son, Douglas E. Russell and his wife, Laurie, and their son, Sam. John also has 4 great-grandchildren, William and Wyatt Russell, and Riley and Scarlett Russell.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the US Equestrian Team or US Modern Pentathlon.