obit template2018-11-29T12:10:12+00:00

John Joseph

John Russo was a quiet, humble man, a man full of character, conviction and compassion. He bore his hardships and his accolades with equal grace, steadied through life’s peaks and valleys by his unwavering faith. John was a honorable veteran, a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. Most of all, he was forever a gentleman and a gentle man, who blessed the lives of all who knew him.

John’s story began on a damp spring day in 1921, as the snows melted from the streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Those were times of change in this country, as newly-elected President Warren Harding promised the American people a “return to normalcy,” and resumed life as normal in the Prohibition era. On March 22, 1921, Luigi and Margherite (Conti) Russo celebrated the birth of a baby boy, a son they named John Joseph Russo.

John joined an older brother and sister in the family’s newfound Philadelphia home. His parents had emigrated from Palermo, Italy six months before, arriving at New York’s Ellis Island in September of 1920, hopeful for a bright future for their two young children and a third on the way.

John’s father was a gunsmith, and his mother cared for the kids and their home. Sadly, Margherite died suddenly when John was just a year old, not long after seeing her baby baptized at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. As a result, John grew up idolizing his father even more than young boys normally do, and cherished helping him work on the gunstocks.

When John was just 12, tragedy struck the family again, when his father died. John was sent to live in a foster home, and soon began attending the Southeast Catholic High School for Boys, which is now St. John Neumann High School. John fit in well there, and played basketball for the school’s team.

John came of age as the darkening skies of World War II thundered upon our shores, and like so many young men of his era, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in October of 1942, ready to do his part. He first trained as a gunner, but later became an airplane mechanic. Before he knew it, he found himself overseas, where he served throughout Europe and Africa. One day John fell off the back of a truck, shattering his elbow, and injury that kept him from further dangerous duty, and an injury he credited with probably saving his life.

John’s tour overseas changed his life in more ways than one, however. While stationed in Naples, Italy, one day he met a wonderful young Red Cross worker named Elaine Skowronski. Elaine was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and helped stage parties for the troops to help boost morale. They began talking, and became fast friends.

But John soon returned to the States, where he was discharged in 1946, while Elaine stayed in Europe for another year. John entered college at Georgetown University, where he began studying journalism, though most of the writing he did was his letters back and forth to Elaine! They wrote many postcards to each other, and their romance bloomed between those lines.

When Elaine returned home in 1947, she went to visit John at Georgetown, asking him to visit her in Milwaukee and to see Marquette University, which by the way, she added, also had a journalism program. So John did, and soon began attending Marquette.

John never received his degree, as he soon had more important things to think about — like providing for his new bride. John and Elaine were happily married on November 20, 1948, at the Basilica of St. Josaphat on Milwaukee’s south side. John found work as a clerk stenographer, which led to positions with the Milwaukee Police Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The newlyweds found a nice home in the Parklawn area on the city’s northwest side, which was one of the many postwar housing communities. There they welcomed the first of two fine sons, Laurence, on September 5, 1949. Then, on October 1, 1954, the couple celebrated the birth of their son Jerome, who rounded out the happy family.

John took a good position with Marquette University as the staff librarian, but eventually went back to work as a civilian clerk stenographer with the National Guard, located at the Nike Command and the 440th Troop Carrier Wing.

Sadly, in April of 1962, Elaine became ill and was diagnosed with cancer. The family packed up and moved to the city’s south side, to be closer to her extended family, who helped care for her and the boys. After a brief yet brave battle, Elaine died on September 27, 1962.

John was deeply saddened, yet he preserved, buoyed by his deep faith and quiet, steady nature. He and the boys moved to 709 W. Euclid Ave., a nice Cape Cod not far from the lake, where John would remain for the next 32 years. Like many of us, John was a steady, solid creature of habit, who enjoyed keeping to his routine.

Like everything in his life, John’s routine centered around his deep faith. Every day, he rose before dawn, walked out his front door and down to the Catholic Church for 6 a.m. mass. On the first Saturday of every month, John entered the confessional to repent. He was also in the Third Order of St. Francis, as part of the Franciscan Order, and taught Sunday School for a time, as well.

John was passionate about education, and about changing the inadequacies of the education system. He was an advocate of American Montessori education, and wrote many, many letters to his representatives regarding education. At home, he instilled the value of education in his sons, and was always very supportive of their activities, interests and endeavors. He especially enjoyed teaching them to use the hand-made tools he created at his kitchen table when they were young.

Eventually, John’s health began to decline, as he developed some health issues related to Parkinson’s disease. He eventually moved to the Milwaukee Catholic Home in 1997, where he was the young guy when he moved in. John resided here until he sadly died, on Saturday, October 10, 2009, at the age of 88.

John was a wonderful man, a humble, honest man full of character, conviction and compassion. He was a quiet, unassuming man, whose actions always spoke so much louder than his words, the whispers of wisdom he imparted on us all. Today John’s words, his life, and his love, lives on in all who knew him. He will be greatly missed.

John was preceded in death by his beloved wife Elaine (nee Skowronski) and brother Anthony Russell and Josephine Russo. He was the cherished father of Laurence Russo and Jerome Russo. Loving grandfather of Anthony Russo and Phillip Russo. Further survived by other relatives and friends.

Visitation is Wed. Oct. 14 at the Milwaukee Catholic Home – St. Anne’s Chapel 2462 N. Prospect Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53211 from 9:00 AM until time of the Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 AM. Interment St. Adalbert Cemetery.


Suminski / Weiss (414) 276-5122

Please visit John’s Memory Page at to share a memory or photo of him.

Past Comments


Just wanted to leave a short message for you since I was unable to attend the visitation this morning. Your Dad brightened my day on many occasions, whether it was his advice on life or a simple kiss on the cheek when I greeted him in the morning to invite him to activities. We will definately miss his presence here in the Catholic Home but he will forever have a special place in our hearts.

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