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At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Parkway Church Missions
10940 S. Nicholson Road
Oak Creek, WI 53154
Life Story / Obituary
A heart-centered man, Russell H. Ebbinger lived a life rich in faith and family. Generous, sensitive, and kind, Russ dedicated his life to the good care of those he loved. Always quick to give of himself, he looked out for those who came upon hard times and needed support. Russ always found a way to reflect the goodness in others and often proved a safe harbor for those who were blessed to share time with him. With a great sense of humor that often showed up at unexpected times, Russ had a gift for inspiring much-needed lightness and a sense of play. A man who embodied the principles of his faith, Russ was an inspiration and a powerful role model who will long be remembered and ever so missed.
1943 marked a time when the war effort in Europe directly impacted all American lives. While countless young people actively served in the trenches of WWII, those who remained stateside poured their energies into supporting the war effort in any way they could. While Ford and GM converted their plants from automobile manufacturing to the building of bombs and aircraft engines, an unprecedented 18 million women proudly worked the manufacturing jobs once held by the men who were now overseas. Providing a sense of respite from the daily struggles, Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller filled the airways, Lassie Come Home the television, and the musical Oklahoma the stage on Broadway. For Herman and Ann (nee Glavan) Ebbinger, it was a particularly exciting time as they welcomed their son, Russell, into their family on April 19, in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Growing up as an only child in North Cape, Wisconsin (Racine County), Russ' childhood was filled with the hard work, companionship, and rewards that come with living on a farm. While he attended school at North Cape School, in a one-room schoolhouse to 8th grade, most of his closest friends were his dogs and his cousins. While his father worked the farm and at a machine shop, his mother was a homemaker. Their home was rich in traditions, including Sunday gatherings when all of their relatives from the city would come to the farm. The afternoon was spent sharing one another’s good company while playing horseshoes and cards, breathing the country air, and enjoying Russ’ mother’s and aunt’s Slovenian pastries.
With a natural sense of adventure, Russ enjoyed hunting pheasant and fishing with his father. He also possessed a persevering spirit that helped him face life’s adversities. This was most evident when he suffered severe burns on his leg when he and his friend accidentally set the chicken coop on fire. Despite the pain, Russ never went to the hospital. Instead, his mother lovingly tended his wounds until they healed.
During his high school years, Russ continued to fish and hunt. He also became interested in cars. Partial to Fords, his first car was a Ford Custom. After graduating from Waterford High School with the class of 1961, Russ attended MATC to learn TV and radio repair. Once he completed his training, he worked at Allen-Bradley until being drafted into the US Army in 1965.
Russ proudly served in the US Army from 1965 to 1967. Once he completed Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he served in France as a radio operator and in Germany as a Jeep driver for a general during the Vietnam era. He loved driving the Autobahn.
During his years in the service, Russ’ fiancé at the time encouraged her cousin, Marge, to write to him as he was quite homesick. He and Marge frequently corresponded, even after her cousin broke off their engagement. Once he safely arrived home from the service, he and Marge began dating and setting their eyes on sharing the future. They were engaged in November of 1967 and married on July 20, 1968, in Franklin at St. James Catholic Church.
The newlyweds made their first home in an upper flat on 20th and Bolivar in Milwaukee, where they were blessed to welcome their first child, Marybeth, on April 14, 1972, and a year later, bought their first and only home on 81st and Morgan Avenue in Milwaukee. On June 23, 1976, their daughter, Jody, was born and completed the family.
Though Russ returned to work for Allen-Bradley for a short time after completing his service in the Army, he later found work at AC Delco in Oak Creek. After being laid off from AC Delco in early 1970, he found a job at GE Medical Systems, where he was employed for 34 years as a Final X-Ray Test Inspector. Committed to working hard and providing for his family, he often went to work early in the morning to work overtime hours. The mornings often began with his dear wife waking with him to make him breakfast and lunch.
It was during his years at GE when he met Marvin Hufford. Marvin shared with Russ about the Lord and invited him to Parkway Apostolic Church in the early 1980s. Soon after this initial invitation, Russ was baptized in the name of Jesus and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Other co-workers who influenced his faith journey while at GE were Barb Arner (Flores), Genny Miller, Cheryl Zsori, and Minerva Acevedo. His soul was fulfilled by his personal relationship with Jesus, and he shared his faith with his family. He also served in various ministries at Parkway for over 37 years. Eager to share his faith, he first served as a Sunday School teacher in the Toddler Room. He also faithfully supported missions, became an usher, worked in the bookstore, helped serve and set up for special events, and gave his time and talents to the Panera Bread Ministry. Even when not officially involved with Children’s Ministries, he was always around and willing to lend a helping hand. Never one to demand the spotlight, Russ preferred to stay in the background, never requiring any recognition or acknowledgment for his contributions.
Before children, Saturday nights during the summer often found Russ and Marge watching the modified car races at Hales Corners Speedway. Despite being covered in dirt, the night always ended with post-race pizza in Wind Lake.
Without a doubt, Russ’ family was his greatest joy. He and Marge worked together to ensure a loving home for their daughters that included spending time with their extended family. Outings were typically visiting with his parents or in-laws, and the family enjoyed Friday night pizza at Villa Roma with Marge’s sister, Judy. Summertime included the traditions of tent camping at different Wisconsin State Parks and annual trips to Great America. Holiday gatherings and family reunions were enjoyed regularly.
Throughout his life, Russ continued to fish and made Spring trips to fish for walleye at the dam on the Menominee River in Marinette near his grandfather’s farm. For many years, Russ enjoyed deer hunting up north with his father and other relatives too. He even took Marybeth deer hunting as a teenager. While working on cars or tinkering in the garage, Marybeth could also be found outside with him, often holding the light for him to see. During the 70s and 80s, Russ repaired TVs in the basement of their home, collecting a lot of parts and circuit boards. Eventually, he used many of the parts he’d collected to painstakingly build his own custom television. The set remains in the basement of the family home to this day. He and Marge enjoyed bowling on a league with family.
As Russ and Marge’s daughters grew into adulthood, Russ continued to support them in any way he could. He would often drop everything to help with a broken-down car or household project. He freely loaned them his truck and unfailingly cheered on their endeavors. In 2010, Russ was thrilled to welcome his son-in-law, James, into the family. It didn’t take long for the pair to create a special bond. Russ taught James many things and was always willing to lend his power tools guiding many home improvement projects. Upon becoming a grandfather, Russ’ joy grew even greater. He relished in his new role and enjoyed playing with and teasing his grandchildren. He was a vigilant protector who delighted in attending youth sports and watching Disney and Nickelodeon with them. Russ was thrilled to be able to welcome his great-grandchildren too.
At the age of 61, Russ retired. After a year off and not doing much of anything, his doctor warned him he needed to get active or die young. Around the same time, Ed Suminski approached him and asked if he would consider working at the funeral homes. Having been interested in mortuary science since high school, Russ unhesitatingly welcomed the opportunity and quickly became a trusted member of the Suminski Family Funeral Home staff. For 13 years, he generously gave of his time and talents in the service of his community. He drove the hearse, assisted with visitations/services, and helped with the maintenance around the funeral homes. Russ enjoyed his role and was grateful for his friendship with Ed, and the rest of the staff. At the age of 75, Russ could no longer tolerate the long hours of standing and had to stop working.
During his leisure time, Russ enjoyed reading, growing his faith, and watching TV. An avid reader, he spent hours reading his Bible, devotionals, and Christian living books. He liked listening to his praise and worship music and attending church services. He also enjoyed mysteries and crime novels; James Patterson and John Sanford were his favorite authors. He could read an entire book in one day! He could often be found relaxing while watching one of his favorite television crime shows.
Though deeply loving and caring, Russ could also be very stubborn. A product of his Slovenian and German heritage, this stubbornness may have helped him face his recent health challenges and live longer than he expected. Not wanting to burden others with his struggles, he did not want others to know of his failing condition in the past few weeks. Honoring his wishes, his devoted wife took care of him all by herself. As he faced the end of his life, he would often tell others, “It’s in God’s hands,” and he fervently prayed for others. Although he had to be admitted to the hospital on Friday, God allowed his wife and daughters to be by his side for his last hours. During these last moments, he was also able to talk to all of his grandchildren prior to his passing at 4:08 pm on August 22.
Russell H. Ebbinger, August 22, 2020, age 77 years. Beloved husband of Marjorie (nee Beix) for 52 years. Devoted father of Marybeth Picard and Jody (James) Bentley. Loving grandpa of Aaron (Brandi), David, Tatiana, and Alyson (Joe). Proud great-grandpa of Austyn, Joey, and Vivian. Further survived by other relatives and friends.
Russ retired from GE Medical Systems in 2004 after 34 years of service.
Memorial Service 2:00 pm Sat. August 29, 2020, at Parkway Apostolic Church, 10940 S. Nicholson Rd. Oak Creek, WI 53154.
If desired, memorials can be directed to Parkway Church Missions.