Russell James York

Obituary
3 entries
  • "To the family of Russell James York: I met "Big Rus"..."
    - Maria Bida
  • - William Colburn
  • "Rest in peace dad. You will live on in the national memory...."
    - Mark York
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SKOWHEGAN -- Longtime Waterville resident and native Russell James York passed away Saturday morning, July 22, 2006 in a Skowhegan area hospital from renal failure. He was 84.

He was born Aug. 5, 1922, in Waterville, the first son of Clifford and Rose York.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Norma Colburn York, 90, of Brooksville Fla., a retired telephone operator Pioneer; his only son, Mark Andrew York, 53, of Sunland, Calif., a biologist and writer; one brother, Merle W. York, 82, of Waterville; a sister, Avis York Belton, 81, of Titusville, Fla.; two nieces, Jane Belton, 53, also of Titusville and Kimberly, 49, of Melbourne, Fla., and a nephew, Brooks Belton, 50, of Cranberry Township, Pa.

Russell York went off to World War II in 1944 as a medic assigned to the 4th Army Engineer Combat Battalion. He landed at Utah Beach on D-Day under the command of Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and with the 22nd Infantry Division served in the campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe.

In the battle for the Hurtgen Forest, with the writer Ernest Hemingway, he earned the Silver Star. The citation follows: "For gallantry in action in Germany, November 20, 1944, Technician Fifth Grade York accompanied an engineer squad on a mission of building a two-span trestle bridge. The bridge site and a nearby crossroads were under direct enemy observation and subject to mortar and artillery fire. While the work was in progress, the enemy delivered a concentration of heavy caliber artillery fire. As the squad dispersed, several members became casualties.

"Although the shelling continued, Technician Fifth Grade York went from one man to another administering first aid. While one casualty lay in an exposed position, directly on the crossroads, he bandaged his wounds and assisted in removing him to a vehicle. As the shelling continued, York repeatedly entered the zone of fire to administer to the casualties, regardless of personal risk involved. Many shells burst close by, but he persisted in work until all wounded were evacuated. ... York's spirit of courageous self-sacrifice resulted in saving many lives."

York turned down a Purple Heart so as to not worry his mother. He was recently interviewed for the Veterans Oral History Project about his service. The tape will be available for the public soon through that organization at the Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/vets/

Back home, he worked as a florist and finally as a doughnut maker for Harris Baking Co. before retiring with a disability in 1987. He earned a GED during that time, and owned a small house at 12 Military Ave. in Fairfield for many decades before moving to Seton Village, and finally moved to Maple Crest Nursing home in Madison.

Russell York was gregarious and would spend many hours talking to anyone he met. He enjoyed opera, classical music and small pets.

Burial will be at the family plot in Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville. He will be missed by all.

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Published in Central Maine on July 28, 2006