FARMINGTON FALLS - Russell Paul Kaniuka died at home in the company of his family on March 31, 2014, after a long illness. He was born on Sept. 17, 1925, in Philadelphia, Pa., to William and Katherine Kaniuka. The oldest of four siblings, Russell was raised in Philadelphia and educated in local public schools.
From 1936 to 1943 Russ spent his summers on his Aunt Annie's farm in Birchrunville, Pa. These summers were among the happiest times of his life. He often said that his life-long love of agriculture and the natural world was a direct result of his time on the farm.
Russell was drafted into the Army on April 1, 1944. He was in the Army Corps of Engineers and saw combat in the European Theater. He then served as a member of the occupation forces until 1946. After returning to the States, he enrolled at Penn State University and received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture in 1952.
In 1958 he began his graduate studies in the School of Journalism at Iowa State University. It was there that he met his future wife, Mary Jane ("M.J.") Corliss. They were married on Aug. 13, 1959, in Belmont, Mass. She died on Sept. 27, 2009, one month after their 50th anniversary. Their only child, William Piers Kaniuka, was born on July 23, 1963.
Russ received a master of arts degree in journalism in 1961. The following year he took a job in Washington, D.C., at the Department of Agriculture as the editor of Agricultural Research magazine. He held this job from 1962 to 1976 and again from 1982 until his retirement in 1988. A highly competent editor, he freely shared his time and skills with many students, aspiring writers and journalists.
Russ dedicated much of his time to charitable activities. He was a board member of the Farmington Public Library and a tutor for the local chapter of Literacy Volunteers. He was also a great friend to the elderly and infirm. A more recent interest was the South Africa Partnership sponsored by the Mission at the Eastward. The Partnership fosters the development of home gardens and small-scale agriculture. His greatest passions were reading and gardening. He could often be found either with a book on the patio or working the soil under the watchful supervision of one or more of his beloved cats.
Besides his son, he is survived by his daughter-in-law, Jessica, of Chesterville; his brother Steven Kaniuka and his wife, Lee, of Delray Beach, Fla.; his sister, Jean Kaniuka, of Philadelphia; his brother-in-law, Robert Corliss, and his wife, Virginia, of Dedham, Mass.; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Walter Kaniuka, who died in 1987.
A kind and gentle man, Russ will be missed by many.
A memorial service and reception will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at Fairbanks Union Church. Donations may be made to the South Africa Project, MATE-SAP, P.O. Box 460, Canton, ME 04221; or the Franklin County Animal Shelter, 550 Industry Road, Farmington, ME 04938. Arrangements are under the direction of Adams-McFarlane Funeral & Cremation Services, 108 Court St., Farmington. Those wishing may send condolences to the family via www.adamsmcfarlane.com.