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Russell J. Cordua, Jr.  

Russ, Sr.
Russ, Sr -PPW<br />(early 50s)
Russ, Sr. -PPW
(Age: early 50s)
Russ, Sr at Salem College
Russ, Sr. -Salem College (mid-1940s)
More pictures of Russ, Sr.

Russ, Sr. was born the youngest of seven children in Lost Creek, West Virginia in 1925. His father died from tuberculosis shortly before his birth and his mother, also from tuberculosis, died when he was less than two years of age. The seven siblings were sent to various orphanages between West Virginia and Washington, D.C. He spent a substantial part of his childhood at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage in Northeast, Washington.

In 1943, Russ, Sr. joined up for WW II as a Navy seaman. His ship was located just off the shores of Normandy, France during the 1944 D-Day invasion. In June of 1994, along with several other Normandy survivors, he was honored by a veteran’s organization in southern Maryland for his participation in this famous battle. Russ, Sr. lost an older brother, Sinclair, during WW II. Sinclair’s ship was sunk by a German U-Boat in the North Atlantic in 1943. His body was never recovered, and he was officially declared as being missing in action.

After leaving the navy, Russ enrolled in Salem College in Salem, West Virginia, where he quickly became a star pitcher. By his third year at Salem, he was considered the state of West Virginia’s top pitching prospect. Russ, Sr., a left hander, had garnered the reputation as a lefty with a slicing fastball and a wicked curve that often left batters frozen at the plate. By the late 1940s, Russ, Sr. had caught the attention of major league scouts, and in 1949 Joe Kritch, the head scout for the St. Louis Browns (which became the Baltimore Orioles in 1953), signed Russ, Sr. After seeing more than a thousand baseball games during the 1949 season, Russ, Sr. was only one of two pitchers Kritch signed. Unfortunately, before Russ, Sr. was able to report to the Brown’s training camp, he threw his arm out in an exhibition game. In today’s world, the injury he suffered would have kept him out a season; in 1949, however, it was career ending. Russ, Sr., devastated by his injury, returned to Salem College, where he completed his bachelor’s degree.

Upon marrying Velora Ford in 1950, and after the birth of their first child, Joyce Ann in 1951, the couple moved to Washington, D.C. in 1952. Russ landed a job in Prince George’s County, Maryland as a physical education teacher. He taught at Glenridge Junior High School in Hyattsville, Maryland and Charles Carroll Junior High School in New Carrollton, Maryland. He coached basketball and track at both schools. After the birth of Russ, Jr. in 1964, he earned a master’s degree in education from Bowie State University. Upon receiving his master’s degree, he took a guidance counselor position at Robert Goddard Junior High School in Lanham, Maryland. Then, in the early 1970s, he became a pupil personnel worker; he was responsible for supervising students in the Hyattsville-Lanham sector of the county. In 1982, Russ, Sr. was the recipient of the prestigious William P. Schmidt Award for outstanding service to the students of Prince George’s County. By all accounts, Russ, Sr. was a beloved educator who earned the life-long love and respect of former coworkers and students alike.

In 1972, Russ, Sr. moved the family to Anne Arundel County, Maryland. In 1973, he put together the basketball program for the Gambrills Odenton Recreation Council (GORC). Many of his former players, including his son, still remember his famous “Wheel” zone offense. He spent the remainder of the 1970s as a volunteer youth coach and mentor.

After his 1982 retirement, and a subsequent divorce, Russ, Sr. moved back to Prince George’s County, where he spent the good part of the next decade caring for his older brother, Alex. Upon Alex’s death in 1990, Russ, Sr. spent the next several years taking in and caring for people who had found themselves down on their luck. At one point, he cared for five people at one time in his home – individuals with both physical and mental impairments. After suffering what was his second stroke in 1993, and beginning to struggle to take care of himself, he moved to Boston to live with his son.

In 1994, while walking into Foxboro stadium in Massachusetts to watch a New England Patriot’s football game, Russ, Sr. suffered his third and final stroke. He died at Massachusetts General Hospital on November 30, 1994.

He is a man that is loved and missed by all who knew him. May love and peace forever travel with him.