Age 88 of Wilmington, formerly of Champaign and Freeport, Illinois, passed away Saturday, June 19, 2021 at his home.
Born January 4, 1933 in Freeport, Lester Phillip was the only child of Oscar and Gladys (Fuller) Russell. He was raised in Freeport and Wilmington, and graduated from Wilmington High School with the Class of 1952. Lester attended Illinois State University where he studied business and Physical Education, before spending time in the Saint Louis Cardinals minor league baseball farm system. He then enlisted in the United States Army and served during the Korean Conflict. On June 25, 1960, Lester married Betty Akins in Crown Point, Indiana.
He worked for many different companies over the years, most recently with Caterpillar in Joliet, but his true passion was coaching. Lester shared his love and knowledge of sports with countless young athletes over his lifetime. He was active with Wilmington little league baseball and Wilmington High School baseball programs, as well as assisting with the Joliet Jaguars and Athletic A’s. Lester instructed pitching and catching with the Wilmington Baseball Connection, and served as a private pitching coach for several area pitchers that went on to play in the Major Leagues. He loved playing with the Wilmington Old Timers Baseball Association, and also helped coach Wilmington Bobcat Football and Saint Rose basketball with his long time friend, Larry Wallen.
Lester was a member of Island City Baptist Church, Masonic Lodge 208, Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 241, and the Malcom J. Mayo VFW Post 5422, all of Wilmington. When he wasn’t coaching, he spent his time fishing, hunting, and being with his loved ones. Lester also enjoyed an occasional trip to Tuffy’s Lounge for a scotch and water, and socializing with his dear friends.
Survivors include his wife, Betty Russell, with whom Lester would have celebrated 61 years of marriage on June 25th; four children: Nancy (Dan) Parker of Ellsworth, Illinois, Ramona (Gregory) Sopko and Robert (the late Shelah) Russell, both of Wilmington, and Dawn (Joseph) Eustice of Pontiac; nine grandchildren: Sally Parker, Lester John Parker (Natasha Slagel), Erik (Nicole) Lyday, Sara (Casey) Mazeika, Meghan Peterson, P.J. Hathaway, Andrew Michaels, Elizabeth Michaels, and Krysta (William) Reynolds; nineteen great grandchildren: Haley, Dylan, Machenzi, Evie Rae, Nora, Rowan, Emma, Ava, Casen, Cayslee, Keagan, Nikoda, Gavin, Skyler, Ceara, Kaige, Brylee, Talon, and Tatum; two great-great grandchildren: Peyton and Braxton; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law: Steve (the late Norma “Cookie”) Akins of Clarksville, Tennessee, Norma Hayes of Effingham, Illinois, and Margie (the late Edgar) Hayes of Clarksville, Tennessee; numerous nieces and nephews, and many dear friends including: Dr. Larry Wallen, the late Joe Tryner, Bob Horton, John Hazzard, Kevin Kerwin, the late Lefty Phillips, Dick Tyler, Ralph Stevens, and Lodi Vercelli.
Lester was preceded in death by his parents, maternal grandparents: Robert and Lillian Fuller; his uncle, Bill Russell, one grandson, David Lee Pulaski, and one great grandson, Connor Kyle Lyday.
The family will receive friends for a visitation Thursday, June 24, 2021 at Baskerville Funeral Home, 700 East Kahler Road, in Wilmington from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with Masonic rites at 7:30 p.m. provided by the Wilmington A.F. & A.M. Lodge 208.
Funeral services will be Friday, June 25, 2021 in the funeral home at 1:00 p.m., with Pastor Jeff Logsdon officiating. Burial with full military honors will follow the service at Oakwood Cemetery in Wilmington.
Preferred memorials may be made as gifts in Lester’s memory to the Wilmington High School Athletic Boosters or Wilmington Baseball and Softball Association.
Family and friends are encouraged to sign the online guest book, upload photographs, and share Lester’s memorial page by logging onto: www.BaskervilleFuneral.com
Funeral services and arrangements have been made under the direction and care of Baskerville Funeral Home in Wilmington (815) 476-2181.
To send flowers to Lester's family, please visit our floral store.