Dunn County columnist, photographer dies at 93

John M. Russell

John M. Russell

MENOMONIE – John M. Russell, who was well-known in photography circles and wrote a local history column in the (Menomonie) Dunn County News, passed away Thursday, Aug. 30 at age 93.

Known as “Menomonie’s Native Son,” Russell was born there on June 23, 1925. Aside from his college years and time as a naval photographer in World War II, Russell lived his entire life in his cherished hometown.

Russell studied journalism at UW-Madison before graduating with a master’s in art education. When he moved back to Menomonie, he opened his first photography studio.

Russell, a past president of the Dunn County Historical Society, wrote a local history column — Scenes of Yesteryear — for the Dunn County News. He also authored Wisconsin Lore and Legends, a series that highlighted well-known and obscure historical facts of Wisconsin and appeared in newspapers across the state.

In a feature published Saturday by the Dunn County News, the director of the local historical society proclaimed no one has ever been more influential in preserving, promoting and sharing Dunn County history than Russell. Editor Barbara Lyons recounts her interactions with Russell at the newspaper and the time a story assignment to write a feature on Russell prompted a seven-part series — “to do even marginal justice to the fascinating life of the man I dubbed ‘The Anomaly from Menomonie’ after he proudly told me he had never smoked a cigarette, drank a cup of coffee, or touched a drop of alcohol.”

In addition to photography and writing, Russell kept busy with theater. Both a playwright and actor, he helped found the Menomonie Theater Guild and wrote “Black Friday,” a play based on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

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