Running with Russell

Posted on April 29, 2016

By Nooneh Aslanian 

You may have seen him jogging around school in the morning, or heard about the elderly man who happily greets everyone during his daily workout, sometimes sporting a Hoover football t-shirt.
But few of you know him as Bill Russell, the Hoover alumnus who graduated in 1958, the friendly paperboy during the 50’s, the lifelong resident of Glendale who has given his service to the city for the past 75 years.
Like any other high school student, Russell faced some difficulties during his years here. He was not the most popular student, the greatest athlete, or the best singer. He was perfectly average. Except for the fact that he never grew.
For almost four years, Russell remained 4 feet and 11 inches tall, weighing approximately 90 pounds. He viewed this as a “problem.” It stopped him from wanting to try out for any sports. He eventually began to dislike exercise all together because he was “too small.”
However, in the years following his graduation, he finally went through a growth spurt. Now weighing 165 pounds at a height of 5’11, Russell embraces all sorts of physical activities, including speed walking and running. He is able to maintain his healthy body by waking up early in the morning and exercising. His route begins from his house off of Highland, and leads to streets around the school, usually resulting in a three- to six-mile run.
After high school, he worked in various industries which required him to provide service to others, allowing his people skills to develop. Whether it was being the manager of the Rosemead Chamber of Commerce, doing shuttle work on ground transportations of cruise ships, or holding a sign and waiting to greet strangers at LAX, his work always “involved with giving the smile.”
Russell believes that providing good service to people and always having a smile on ultimately results in a successful life. However, according to Russell, “we have had a change in society.”
As he waves hello or says “good morning” to students on their way to school, he notices that they often disregard him and continue listening to their music through their earphones, blocking off everyone and everything.
“Sometimes they pretend they don’t hear me, but usually I’ll say it again a little louder,” Russell said.
But then there are the few students who will smile at him or even say “good morning” before he does, since they have gotten used to seeing him at the same time everyday for the past couple of years.
“Seeing someone his age always smiling and being so friendly to everyone every morning just makes me want to be in a better mood,” Anush Ter Ghukasyan (’16) said. “He has this optimistic and positive attitude that rubs off on anyone; his energy is contagious.”
Although much has changed since he was a student here, walking back through the doors of Hoover gives him a sense of nostalgia.
“I didn’t realize how good I had it,” Russell said, while reminiscing about his days as a flute player in the band.
He feels that while he was a student, he did not appreciate the good things, such as the experience he gained in the stage crew classes, or when he performed with the band at the Rose Bowl against Glendale High. But he also wishes he had been more involved.
“I miss what I could have done,” he said.
While he was here, things were very different. People had no phones, no headphones, no way to ignore those around them through technology. Society during his time here was “completely opposite” of how it is now.
Spending time with people and interacting with strangers has been a part of his daily routine for his whole life.
“He is a wonderful man,” wife Wanda Russell said. “He always wants to stop and talk to people.”
One day he might meet up with his friend at McDonald’s. The next day he will go to Pepperdine University and meet with a professor friend.
And maybe the following day he will volunteer at his church and work with people who need physical help for their daily activities.
Whatever or wherever it is, he is always surrounded by different people. Although the community around him constantly changes, he never does.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.