Frank Russel died Monday of cancer. He was 62. He was a onetime fire marshal of Upper Darby Township, manager of facilities for the Upper Darby School District, an operations manager for Atlantic Refining Co., proprietor of his own heating oil service company, president of the Westbrook Park Fire Company and a Navy veteran.
Frank couldn't seem to help himself when he saw something that needed doing. Once on vacation, he visited his brother in Los Angeles.
"While he was here, he put in a sink in the laundry and wired the whole house for a satellite dish," John said. "I said, 'Beansie, you're on vacation.' He said, 'I like to do this stuff.' "
Frank had a lifelong passion for firefighting, inherited from his late father, Frank Zell Russel, the first chief of the Westbrook Park Fire Company, and his mother, Jeannette, president of the Ladies Auxiliary, which held bake sales, spaghetti dinners and such to raise funds for the fire company.
"We grew up around the firehouse," John said.
Frank joined the company at age 16, and rose through the ranks. After the Navy, he became engine lieutenant, engine captain and fire chief in the early '90s. He became president in 1996, a post he held for 19 years.
He served as Upper Darby fire marshal for two years in the early '80s.
Frank was born in Darby and graduated from Upper Darby High School. He received an associate's degree in fire science from Delaware County Community College.
He joined the Navy after high school and was assigned as an air-frame mechanic working on jets at Miramar Naval Base in California. He attained the rank of petty officer 3rd class.
After the Navy, Frank worked on oil tankers and tugboats on the Delaware River for a contracting firm. In 1980, he went to work for the Atlantic Refining Co., later Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), as a manager in the consumer petroleum products division.
While at Atlantic, Frank fulfilled a long-held dream of starting his own business. He founded FRRCO (Frank R. Russel Co.) Inc. in Yeadon, delivering heating oil and servicing oil burners.
As manager of facilities for the Upper Darby School District, he used a computer to detect any problems in the schools, and he and a five-person crew rushed out to fix them.
When the Westbrook Park Fire Company was planning to build a new firehouse, Frank and two firefighting friends, Thomas Micozzie, now mayor of Upper Darby, and Gary McAfee, designed it.
Frank had a number of other interests. He built a weather station on the roof of his garage. He owned and rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and had his own 23-foot sailboat on the Chesapeake.
"He was a people person," his brother said. "People liked to talk with him because he always knew what he was talking about. He loved helping people."
Frank married the former Janice Ceresani in 1984. Besides his wife and brother, he is survived by two daughters, Stephanie Cavallo and Jennifer Russel, and three sisters, Jeannette "Jeff" Wesley, Jane May and Joan Russel.
Services: Memorial service noon Friday at O'Leary Funeral Home, 640 E. Springfield Road, Springfield. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be private.