1943-2020 ~ The family of Russell Billy Rezansoff said goodbye as he left on his last adventure. It was a long goodbye as Russ battled heart failure and his wife Laura and three girls: Corinna Bates (Matt), Tina Rezansoff (Tony), and Lisa Pugh (Brian) and all his grandsons: Eric, Emmett, Charlie, and Elliott had the privilege to talk to Gpa and say their goodbyes in person.
If you knew Russ, then you would know he loved discovering knowledge about the world around him. Russ was a big fan of history and the past, and he made sure to tell his family about his childhood growing up on a prairie farm in the little Doukhobor town of Kamsak Saskatchewan. The eldest of three children, Russ had many responsibilities on the grain farm but also time to engage in his passions hunting and fishing.
After moving to New Westminster, BC to finish high school, Russ learned many trades in his lifetime including being a butcher, prison guard, commercial fisherman, A/B/C ticketed welder/fabricator, and millwright. Russ had a very strong work ethic and always gave 110% to the job at hand. He made sure to impress upon his family that hard work had its rewards.
Russ met the love of his life Laura one night after a poker game in New Westminster. He decided that it was a great time to leave while he was ahead and go on a date! At that time, dating a divorced single mother with a young daughter was not a popular choice but Russ was smitten.
Laura and Russ dated for seven years before tying the knot in a room above Art Knapp’s Plantland (where the minister resided) due to their wishes to have a secular service. At that time, he also had the privilege to adopt her daughter Corinna as his own child. Russ and Laura’s marriage lasted over 50 years!
Russ was introduced to the Cariboo in the 1960’s through Laura, as her parents John and Pearl Gauthier, owned the Cariboo Chalet at Deka Lake. After permanently moving his expanding family to the Cariboo in 1972, Russ worked for Ainsworth Lumber for most of his life. He helped build the Chasm and 100 Mile sawmills; managed the fabrication shop at Exco Industries; and later on, was a millwright at the OSB plant. Russ helped guide many apprentices over the years with his excellence in his trades and is fondly remembered by many coworkers.
Russ and Laura designed and built three houses in his lifetime in Coquitlam, Horse Lake, and the 108 Mile Ranch. Russ also helped build the Powell’s A-frame cabin at Sulphurous Lake where the family spent many summer holidays water skiing with lots of teenagers! He also volunteered as the waxing coach for the 100 Mile Nordics for about ten years when his daughters x-country ski raced around BC. Russ also gave time to help develop the 99 Mile Ski Trails and helped with the fabrication of the giant skis located at the Tourist Information Centre.
Russ’s love of history was evident in his later years when he facilitated the English translation and publication of his grandfather Fedor Detchkoff’s dairy “Trail of Blood” in the Doukhobor magazine Iskra. The story told of his grandfather’s incredible journey on foot across Asia from Georgia on the Black Sea to a work camp in Yakutsk, Siberia where he met and married Russ’s Siberian grandmother.
Russ loved adventures and traveling. There were many memorable to vacations to Hawaii, Bahamas, California, Yukon, Alaska, BC Coast, and Cook Islands. Spring through to winter, Russ and Laura also loved to go on hunting and fishing trips to all the lakes around the Cariboo.
People often sought Russ’s advice on how or where to fish and he had a moose call that never failed. No trip was too small, and many a Sunday night in the 70’s was spent watching bears at the Lone Butte dump!
Russ spent his life surrounded by women. Growing up, his mother adored him and he had two younger sisters. When he married, he managed to navigate raising three independent strong daughters, his wife, and even a beloved female family dog named Ruby. When his son-in-laws came into the family, he welcomed them all with open arms.
Russ was known to his family and friends as “McGyver” the guy would could fix anything and many people sought his advice on how to fix just about anything. He was also very good at giving advice on life and in his quiet reserved way could get to the heart of the problem and know just how to fix that too.
Of course, Russ was not always quiet and many people who happened to engage him in a topic of interest would find that they had just spent an hour discussing it with him. Russ also loved science and he spent many hours reading and watching documentaries on various topics, particularly in the areas of biology, medicine, and health.
Russ and Laura were always going on camping, fishing, and hunting trips into the bush and the many lakes around the Cariboo.
One favourite spot was a campsite that Russ and the late Ed Hill made in the 1980’s at the north end of Bowers Lake. After extending the road and making a landing area to the large pebble beach, the family spent many years fishing here and it is the place that Russ will to be returned to during a celebration of his life.
In his last years, his health prevented him from going on these adventures to the wild places but he will be going back to them again. If you want to honour Russ’s memory be thankful for your family and all that you have; work hard at whatever you do; and respect nature and its creatures.
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