Cover photo for Russell Cromwell's Obituary
1935 Russell Cromwell 2023

Russell Cromwell

October 12, 1935 — October 9, 2023



Harold Russell Cromwell Jr passed away peacefully on October 9th, 2023, surrounded by his loved ones. He was born October 12th, 1935, in the sawmill gulch of the Rattlesnake just north of Missoula. He was the oldest of four born to Harold and Grace Cromwell. After spending his youth in Bonita, just east of Missoula, his family settled in Stevensville where he attended high school and played football before graduating in 1953. After high school he joined the Army and was stationed in Fort Ord for basic training, before being stationed in Japan. Prior to leaving for Japan, he married the love of his life Rose Marie Thomas on October 16, 1954. After serving in Japan for two years he returned to Missoula, building his forever home along Lolo Creek and raising his three children Kathy, Roderick and Brian.

After serving in the military, he worked at a lumber mill for several years, and finally became a carrier for the US Postal Service in Missoula until retiring in 1995.

Being an outdoor family, they often were hiking, camping, hunting or picking huckleberries in the woods Russell loved so much.  The mountains were his favorite thing.  Russell packed into the Bob Marshall wilderness, floated the Missouri Breaks and hiked to the top of Lolo Peak. He snowshoed into the mountains with his dog Tippy.  Russ would set on the side of a mountain listening to the wind move through the trees, watching the squirrels and chipmunks gathering their food, and watching the hawks gliding through the sky.  Once he observed a pair of crows in flight and playing a magical game of catch the stick as one would drop it and the other capturing it. This game went on for quite awhile. He said it was fascinating.

Getting the winter haul of wood for the stove was never as much work as it was fun for his children. He would saw and they would load the old green truck. When all loaded the family would see how far they could coast back down the hill before Russ would have to start the old truck. Many times it was a big family event with Phillip and Kenny and all the cousins.  So much fun!

Russell’s three kids either enlisted or worked as a civilian for the US Military.  They served in places where he was able to travel the world once again, with his wife, exploring Europe with Kathy and Alan who were stationed in Germany with the Army; traveled to El Paso Texas to see Rod in the Army; the Hawaiian Islands visiting Brian in the Marines; and down to Naval Air Base Fallon Nevada, Navy Strike Air Warfare Center where Kathy and Alan worked.

After retiring from civil service, he spent his days hiking the drainages of the Bitterroot Valley and Lolo Canyon, becoming more familiar than most with the terrain and the older woodsmen in the area. Learning their stories and following the trails that early woodsmen had blazed at the turn of the century like Bill Woodman and Bud Moore. He often referred to the old logging roads or trails by the names they were given when first used rather than the names we know them by today. He was a true man of the mountains. He would often get off work, pick up his brother Phillip and they would “run the roads” which was just the simple pleasure of driving on the logging roads in the Lolo Canyon.  They knew every road, skid trail and path in the valley.

When the 1988 fire season hit Lolo Canyon, Kathy was working for the Lolo National Forest in the fire arena. The Fire Management Office (FMO) was looking for an individual that knew the roads in that area.  Kathy immediately recommended her dad Russell.  It was perfect – the Forest Service was thrilled with his knowledge and Russell was bitten by the “Fire Bug”!  He became a driver for the USFS Northern Rockies Fire Cache out of Missoula, hauling supplies and equipment for fire camps all across the western US. He loved this second career!

He is survived by his wife Rosie of 69 years; his daughter Kathy Christian (Alan) of Missoula, his sons Rod Cromwell (Marion) of Yelm WA and Brian Cromwell (Sandy) of Victor; Darla James (Leon) of St Regis, whom he considered a daughter; his grandchildren Lindsey Oberquell (Jason) of Lolo Creek, Aaron Christian of Bozeman, Eric Cromwell (Monika) of Missoula, Amber Noy (Blake) of Billings, Anthony Cromwell of Bremerton WA, Cory Cromwell (Lindsey) of Missoula, Evan James of Missoula, Sarah Allen of Council Grove IA, Royce Williams of Maysville NC. His great-grandkids Abigail and Bergen who kept the sparkle in his eyes during his last few years; Lanita, Anna, Thor, Landon, Taelyn, Hailey and Avarie; in-laws George Thomas (Sandy), Kendal Thomas (Penny), Margaret Eskridge, many nieces and nephews, and longtime friend Hester Clark of Missoula.

He is proceeded in death by his parents Harold and Grace; his siblings Philip Cromwell (Betty), Della Ahern, Nancy Piche; his lifelong friends Alvie Daniels, Ken Hawkins, Jim Rickena, and Roderick Shultz; and his oldest grandson, Russell “Little Russell” Cromwell who no doubt eagerly awaited his arrival on the other side and was there to greet him.

There will be a graveside service the spring of 2024 at the Florence Carlton Historical Cemetery. The date and time will be published in the Missoulian at a future date.

Russell’s family would like to thank the wonderful angels that work at Edgewood Memory Care Facility in Missoula for the loving care and friendship they gave to this wonderful man.  We never worried about his wellbeing there – the entire staff were amazing!  Many of them became family and we are so very very grateful. Thank you all!

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


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