Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 27, 2013

Robert H. Russell

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — GLEN LAKE — Robert Harold Russell, known as Bob, died at the age of 62, at his brother and sister-in-law’s home on Glen Lake on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. He was born on Nov. 18, 1950, in Saline, Mich., to Dorotha Jane and Robert Otto Russell. His mother survives.

Bob graduated from Saline High School in 1968. After a few semesters at community college he morphed from being a biker to become a biology student. His hungry mind took him from the mechanics shop to the University of Michigan where he graduated with a degree in biology in 1973. Bob had many vocations and avocations, including: teacher, screen-printer, photographer, downtown Traverse City business owner (Ernie’s Soft Earthwares), co-founder of the first local internet business (Traverse Communications Company), longtime environmental/peace activist, gearhead, past chairman of the Grand Traverse County Solid Waste Council and Department of Public Works, community organizer, web developer, handyman, cook, father, husband, son, and fun-haver.

For the past 28 years Bob ran the Neahtawanta Inn with his wife, Sally Van Vleck, who survives. Together they founded the Neahtawanta Research and Education Center on June 21, 1987, the day they got married.

Bob’s longtime community activism continues through all of those he inspired. Most recently, his work focused on building resilient communities.

Also surviving are his daughter, Bree Russell Carscadden (Donny); his step-daughters, Hallie Olson Wastell (Jeff), Katy Olson, and Jessica Olson Bachmann (Eric); his sisters, Mary Bush (Jeff), Linda Russell, and his brother, Steven Russell (Jan); grandchildren Jack and Chloe Wastell, Anders Olson and Ava Bachmann; many nieces and nephews; and his best friend, Grips.

Donations in Bob’s name may be given to the Bob Russell Memorial Fund, c/o the Neahtawanta Center, 1308 Neahtawanta Rd., 49686 (make checks to the Neahtawanta Center); or online at:

A lunch potluck celebration of Bob’s life will be held at noon, on Sunday, Sept. 8, on the front lawn at the Grand Traverse Commons. You are welcome to bring a dish to share following the memorial service.