Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower



Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Apr 11

Fritz and Dolores Russ: The Couple Behind Russ Nature Reserve

Posted on April 11, 2019 at 3:12 PM by Melissa Dalton

Have you ever been to Russ Nature Reserve in Beavercreek? Do you know the story of how the land and property became part of the park system in Greene County? We weren’t familiar with the story either, until we ran across records in the Parks & Trails files (Fig 1). This week, we’re going to look at the life of Fritz and Dolores Russ, the people who made Russ Nature Reserve possible.

Fig 1. File found in Parks & Trails records (JPG)
Fig 1. File found in Parks & Trails records (Greene County Archives)

Fritz J. Russ was born on September 23, 1920 in Jackson County, Ohio (Fig 2). Russ attended Ohio University, and graduated in 1942 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering (Fig 3). That same year, Russ married Dolores Houser, also of Jackson County (although they did not meet until 1939). After graduation, Russ began his work at the Naval Research Laboratory, where he helped design the first high-voltage, RF-generated (radio frequency) power supply. After WWII, he worked on the development of instruments that would measure the force of atomic bomb blasts, and took part in the testing.

Fig 2. 1930 U. S. Census from Hamilton Township, Jackson County, Ohio (JPG)
Fig 2. 1930 U. S. Census from Jackson County, Hamilton Township, Ohio (Ancestry.com)

Fig 3. Fritz Russ, Jr., BSEE, Ohio University, College of Applied Science Yearbook (JPG)
Fig 3. Fritz Russ, Jr., BSEE, Ohio University, College of Applied Science Yearbook (Ancestry.com)

In the late 1940s, Russ continued his work at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), developing a firing error indicator for aircraft guns. Russ was only at WPAFB for a short period, retiring his position so he and Dolores could start their own company (which had its beginnings in the basement of their home). In 1955, Fritz and Dolores founded Systems Research Laboratories (SRL), a company that grew into one of the leading companies in electronics and automation. In particular, SRL was instrumental in the advancements in technology for the space program.

Due to the expanse of Fritz’s research and contributions to the engineering field, Ohio University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1975 (Fig 4).

Fig 4. Fritz and Dolores Russ, Ohio University (JPG)
Fig 4. Fritz and Dolores Russ (Ohio University)

In 1987, SRL merged with Arvin Industries. It was then that Fritz and Dolores established the Russ Venture Group to continue work on personal projects.

The Russes were great contributors to their community, and also felt strongly about providing opportunities to those interested in pursuing an education in engineering. Due to their major contributions, three Ohio universities greatly benefited – Cedarville University, Ohio University, and Wright State University. In particular, Wright State University was able to build a new engineering and science building in 1992, formerly dedicated as the Russ Engineering Center. In 1994, Ohio University established the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology after the couple made one of the largest contributions to an engineering school in the United States.

In 1999, the Russes endowed the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, which is administrated by Ohio University and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). This prize of $500,000, awarded every two years, “recognizes an outstanding bioengineering achievement in widespread use that improves the human condition” (Fig 5).

Fig 5. National Academy of Engineering Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize (JPG)
Fig 5. National Academy of Engineering Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize (NAE website)

The couple remained committed to their communities, even in death. Fritz died on November 3, 2004 at the age of 84. When the inventory and appraisal was filed for his estate, the total estate was estimated at almost $60 million (Fig 6). As part of this, it was determined that the real property (roughly 12 different parcels of land, mostly in Greene County) would to be left to various organizations. However, Dolores remained in control of their home in Ohio (they had a place in Florida as well) until her death on January 2, 2008 at the age of 86. At that time, the executor deeded the two parcels, located on Kemp Road, to the Greene County Park District. This land, roughly 90 acres, is now home to the Russ Nature Reserve. The 4000 square foot ranch style home is being renovated to house a multi-use center. The Russ Nature Reserve has a nature playscape, hiking trails, small pond, garden, tree nursery, butterfly garden, and bee apiary. Visit the Greene County Parks & Trails website to learn more.

Fig 6. Inventory and Appraisal, Estate of Fritz J. Russ (JPG)
Fig 6. Inventory and Appraisal, Estate of Fritz J. Russ (Greene County Archives)

The legacy of Fritz and Dolores Russ is one of tenacity and dedication. The engineering community has greatly benefited from their work and contributions, but so has Greene County. Today, we honor them.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Greene County Archives
National Academy of Engineering
Ohio University

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