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1944 Russell 2022

Russell Richard Brown

September 19, 1944 — December 27, 2022

Russell Richard Brown of Belgrade, Montana suddenly left us Tuesday, December 27, 2022, at the age of 78 from complications from ALS and Respiratory Failure.

Known as Russ, or Rusty, to his friends and loved ones, Russell was born on September 19, 1944, to parents Richard D. and Margaret (Jolly) Brown. He enjoyed growing up in Northern Wisconsin with his 4 siblings. After graduating in 1962 from Washington High School, in New London, Wisconsin, Russ joined the United States Air Force in January 1963. After bootcamp, he was stationed near Charlevoix, MI where he served as a Radar Technician until February 1967. From February 1967 through March 1978, Russ worked for IBM in sales and as computer repair technician, which took him both to New York and Indiana. Eventually, in 1978, he made his way back to Charlevoix, Michigan, where he raised his family, and co-owned an asphalt business. It was in Charlevoix that Russ met the love of his life, Dianna Phillips, and they spent many years together there. The last part of his working life from 1984 through 2008 was spent as a realtor helping to create new beginnings for many people. He earned many awards due to his expertise and willingness to go the extra mile. He served as President of the ACK Board of Realtors in 1996 and in 1998. He was Past President of Antrim Charlevoix Association of Realtors and helped create the Northern Michigan Multiple Listing Service that is still in use today. He was a proud member of the Elks, a Master Mason, and Grand Master in 2006 with the Charlevoix Masonic Lodge #282.

A genius father of daughters, Russ taught his girls how to correctly shake a person’s hand and look them in the eyes. They knew when he was disappointed, when he was proud, and above all, that they were loved unconditionally. He didn't take bad behavior personally. He corrected poor choices with loving guidance and waited with a patient heart and grace for improved decisions. He taught through stories and his life experiences, and by example. He instilled in them a sense of uniqueness, self-worth, confidence, and strength. He taught them they were valuable. He told them that the best they would ever see of a man was when he was courting them (because he would be trying to impress them at that point), and that they ought to choose their partners in life wisely based on what they presented as their best in the early days. His greatest lesson was that love is enduring and could never run in short supply; like one candle lighting another, the flame of love can be gifted over and over again while never diminishing their own flame.

In his retirement, Russ and Dianna moved west to Montana, where they were married on August 27, 2022, in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in Worden, Montana, overlooking the Yellowstone River. Russ absolutely loved his life with Dianna in Montana. He was Dianna’s ‘Perfect Husband’ and greatest love. Together, Russ and Dianna had many wonderful adventures camping, fishing, and on his Harley, which they rode through Canada, to Niagara Falls, and Vermont. They traveled the West Coast as well, along highway 101, through Oregon and back around through Idaho. Russ was well-traveled, having been to 49 of the 50 US states (Rhode Island was the only one missed!), as well as several other countries, including Canada, Germany, Costa Rica, and Austria. An avid sportsman for most of his life, Russ enjoyed being in the outdoors, often camping, hunting and fishing. He was skilled at both hunting and fishing, and he’d frequently boast of catching his limit in Michigan and Montana waters. While raising a family, he used these skills to put food on the table. In his later years, he preferred shooting wildlife with a lens rather than a firearm.

Russ loved his family most of all, but the Green Bay Packers were a close second! He also loved Labrador Retrievers, magic tricks, attending his kids’ and grandkids’ sporting events, reading Jack Reacher and Louie Lamour books, as well as stories and TV shows about the old west. Russ was a very skilled card player; you were lucky if you could beat him. He was an excellent cook who rarely used a recipe. He had fun throwing darts and debating politics - preferably not at the same time! Some of our favorite memories: Russ and Dianna calling us on our birthdays and singing “Happy Birthday” in harmony; calling Russ’ phone and getting his voicemail… “if this is one of my kids calling…. I loooovvveee you…. Anyone else, leave your name and number and I’ll call you back;” his beautiful singing voice, which he frequently and joyfully put to use on long car trips (“You can’t ride my little red wagon…” “Mares eat oats and does eat oats…” “Boom boom ain’t it great to be crazy” were among his favorites!); his willingness to be “dad” to anyone in need of one; his ET story, which taught us that being pretty on the inside matters more than being pretty on the outside; and the twinkle in his eye when he knew he was being clever. These will all be missed. As a family we are sad that he must go home to be with our Lord, but also so grateful for the loving memories and life lessons learned through his stories.

Russ is survived by: his wife, Dianna (Phillips) Brown of Belgrade, MT; his mother-in-law, Carol Agnew of Crossville, TN; his sisters, Deneka Guyette and Nancy Allen, both of Shiocton, WI, and his brother, David G. Brown (Patricia) of New London, WI; his children, Rhonda Brown Martenson, of Sarasota, FL, Heather Brown, of Babcock Ranch, FL, Mariah Nelson (Ervin) of Cecil, PA, Rachael Turner (Patrick) of Sarasota, FL, and Ann Toepke (Shelby ) of Worden, MT; his grandchildren, Braden Brown, Ashton Martenson, Duran Brown, Sage Charbonneau, Mackenzie Smith, Ethan Lynds, Colter Toepke, Paige Toepke; and his great-grandchildren, Kamdyn Brown, Kaleb Brown, Vedder Okorn, Landon Martenson, Yvain Knapp, and Penelope Martenson; a large extended family, and dear friends. He was predeceased by his mother and father, Richard and Margaret Brown, his sister, Carol Beattie, his daughter, Ally Margaret Brown, and two brothers-in-law, Jim Guyette and Dale Allen.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made in the name of Russell R. Brown to Shriners Hospitals for Children by calling 844-739-0849 or by online donation at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Russell Richard Brown, please visit our flower store.


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