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Dunbar man celebrates Christmas, birthday, anniversary at same time

Craig Cunningham
James and Lottye Russell celebrated their 67th anniversary on Christmas. The day also marked the 93rd birthday for James Russell. The picture he is holding shows the couple in 1990.
Craig Cunningham
CRAIG CUNNINGHAM/DAILY MAIL James and Lottye Russell celebrated their 67th anniversary on Christmas. The day also marked the 93rd birthday for James Russell. The picture he is holding shows the couple in 1990.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Christmas always presents the opportunity for a triple celebration in the Russell household.This year James Russell celebrated Christmas, his 93rd birthday and his 67th wedding anniversary on the same day.  "It's just a big jovial occasion," said Russell of Dunbar, who has always enjoyed packaging important dates and exchanging gifts all at once. "My folks never gypped me."When he became engaged to his wife-to-be, it seemed appropriate they should have a Christmas Day wedding. He loves having gifts wrapped in three different kinds of paper in celebration of each event."My family looks out for me," he said.But let's start at the beginning.Russell was one of five children born to Nellie P. and J. Alvin Russell. Both of his parents were educators and passed their love for learning along to their children. Russell, who grew up in Lawrenceville, Va., earned a bachelor's degree in math from Oberlin College in Ohio, a bachelor's degree in industrial technology from Bradley University in Illinois, a master's in industrial education from Bradley, and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Maryland. He has served as president of St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, where his father once served as president as well. The college was founded in 1888 by his grandfather, James Solomon Russell.Over the years, Russell has also taught at West Virginia State College (now a university) and served the school as interim president. He has also served as interim president at Southern West Virginia Community College.  His wife, Lottye, is also an educator. He met her when she began teaching French at St. Paul's College. They married Dec. 25, 1943, when she was 24 and he was 26. For their honeymoon, they took a train to New York City."Can you imagine people being married 67 years?" asked Russell, who added the secret to a long marriage is love and understanding. "With love you can overcome certain obstacles. You keep going."
The Russells have two children, Charlotte Justyn Coley, of Dunbar, who also became a teacher. Their son, J. Alvin Russell III, is an investment banker in Washington, D.C.When his wife's health was better, the Russells did a lot of traveling."We celebrated our 50th anniversary by going to Europe," he said.
This year's celebration was lower key, but still festive with gifts, champagne and food prepared by their son."Our son likes to cook when he comes home," Russell said.While the years have slowed him down a bit, his schedule would be brisk for someone decades younger.He is an active member of St. Christopher Episcopal Church on the West Side, where he serves on the vestry, finance committee, and worship committee. He is also chairman of ushers and greeters. Other church members report he is also a good storyteller and a sharp dresser.He is treasurer of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity local chapter, Upsilon Boule, and chaplain of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.A fan of classical and jazz music, he has 1,400 CDs arranged in alphabetical order and is working his way through listening to all of them. He has made it to K. "I'm now on B.B. King."
He also enjoys his computer."I don't plan to wither away at 93," he said.Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.
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