Cover photo for Russell Carter's Obituary
Russell Carter Profile Photo
1923 Russell 2015

Russell Carter

October 6, 1923 — January 25, 2015

Russell Clinton Carter October 6, 1923 - January 25, 2015 Russell Clinton Carter, 91, a Park Rapids, Minnesota, area farmer and businessman, died on January 25, 2015, at Pleasant Akers Assisted Living Facility near Akeley, Minnesota. His family - mainly his son, Dwight - had cared for him at his house in Straight River Township until the last twenty-four hours of his life. He was born on October 6, 1923, in a little house near Coloma, Michigan, to Clinton Fredrick Carter and Ruby Minnie Rifenberg Carter. Russell grew up in and attended schools in both southwestern Michigan and central Florida. He graduated from Constantine High School in Constantine, Michigan, in 1941. From 1945 to 1946, Russell served in the United States Army. He trained at Camp Livingston, Louisiana, and then served as First Sergeant in the United States Army 36th TC Service Company at Adak, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. From 1941 to 1954 (taking time out for military service and college), Russell worked with his father on their Prayrie Orchards farm near Mottville, Michigan, milking, breeding, and showing Ayrshire dairy cattle and raising fruit and vegetable crops. The father-son team worked together on farming innovations and inventions. They were the first farmers in that area to do large-scale irrigation, and they were one of the first, if not the first, to use row covers for raising early tomatoes. Both Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazine, as well as a number of farm magazines, took note of their Pickle Picker invention, a machine for harvesting pickling cucumbers. Russell and his father were also recognized and honored for a number of their other agricultural achievements. Russell graduated from Moody Bible Institute in June 1954, and on July 17 of that same year he married his college classmate Maxine ("Maggie") Louise Kulp at the Mottville Bible Church in Mottville, Michigan. On October 1, 1954, Russell and Maxine arrived in Straight River Township near Park Rapids, Minnesota, where, until February 13, 1966, they worked in rural missions associated with Oak Hills Fellowship of Bemidji, Minnesota. Russell became the pastor of two rural chapels, in which they held Sunday School and worship services. One was in Straight River Township in the District 23 school house. The other chapel was in Becker County. They taught an Oak Hills curriculum at "released time" classes in country schools and also in Park Rapids, Menahga, and Osage schools. They held yearly Vacation Bible Schools in four different places. They had a sizeable youth group and ongoing activities with the youth. With all of these activities, plus girls and boys clubs, they did a lot of transporting of children and neighbors with their car. Since ministry financial support was slim, for the rest of their living expenses, including fuel and vehicle upkeep, Russell had to do various odd jobs and endeavors. From about 1957 to 1961, he drove a school bus route for contract bus owner John Bartness, and then drove for the Kendall and Shearer bus company. Around the early 1960s, Russell worked part-time as a carpenter for Don Tschudi, who was building and repairing homes around Bad Medicine Lake. In the mid-1960s, Russell began carrying mail, first as a substitute, then full-time once his sons were old enough to work productively on the farm. He retired from carrying mail on October 6, 1983, and put all of his focus on the farm. The small northern Minnesota garden Russell started in the mid-1950s eventually became Carters' Red Wagon Farm. The garden and farm's signature product was Carters' Tomatoes. Russell was one of the first area farmers to use irrigation extensively. His diversified farm included feeder pigs, an award-winning herd of purebred Ayrshire dairy cattle, pick-your-own strawberries, and a retail farm market selling a large volume and a large variety of his own locally grown produce. He designed the farm logo and painted most of the farm's signs - both the lettering and the detailed images. Anthony ("Tony") Carter, Russell's youngest son, now owns and operates Carters' Red Wagon Farm. When Russell was a lad, his mother taught him the little chorus "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" and had him sing it to his dad when he came home from work. Russell has been singing ever since. Neighbors could hear the young Russell singing above the tractor engine while he was plowing in Michigan. While in college at Moody Bible Institute, Russell sang tenor with various gospel quartets. In Minnesota, he again performed solos and sang in quartets and choirs. In the early 1970s, he joined bass singer Bill Lundsten to form the Golden Street Quartet. Russell's strong, high-quality tenor singing was known and loved by many. Russell also played the harmonica and jaw harp, entertained on the piano with a fun rendition of "Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?" and could whistle in unique ways. In the early years, Russ and Maggie performed duets, Russ on the guitar and Maggie on the accordion. In 2007, Russell received a donor kidney from rural missions co-worker and long-time family friend Jean Ballard. Jean said she wanted Russell to keep singing. Both in their mid-80s, they became the oldest combined kidney donor and recipient in the world. Russell was a member of Gideons International, the American Legion, and Faithbridge Church. He served church fellowships as song leader, AWANA Commander, Sunday School teacher, deacon, elder, pastor, preacher, and singer. He was active in 4-H clubs and conservative political concerns. He served as a fair supervisor, a number of years on the Straight River Township board, the Park Rapids Area school board, and the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) board. In 2001, Russell wrote his memoirs, which his sister Carol printed. A publicly accessible copy of his memoirs is located at the North Berrien County Historical Museum in Coloma, Michigan. This museum, which sits on land donated by Russell Carter's ancestors, includes the Carter House, which displays the Carter family history and artifacts. The last word Russell's family heard him say was "home." Russell was preceded in death by his parents, a sister (Onalee Joan Hassenger), a brother (James Alan Carter), and a step-mother (Irma Woodworth Carter).Russell is survived by his wife, Maxine; his seven children: Paul (Lori) Carter of Des Moines, Iowa; Dwight Carter of Frutas del Mundo Farm, El Amatillo Village, Izabal, Guatemala; Carla (Al) Kehler of Winnipeg, Manitoba; Mark (Beth) Carter of Park Rapids; Jonathan (Julia) Carter of Park Rapids; Rita (David) Blake of Park Rapids; and Anthony (LindaSue) Carter of Park Rapids; twenty grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; and three sisters: Colleen (John) Myers of Spring Arbor, Michigan; Gloria (Kenneth) Huber of Sarasota, Florida; and Carol (David-deceased) Longcor of Amarillo, Texas. Russell donated his body to the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The Carter family will host a memorial service at Faithbridge Church in Park Rapids at 11am on Saturday, January 31, 2015 with the Rev. Marty Giese officiating. Visitation will be held at the church one hour prior to the service. To leave online condolences or to view the video tribute please visit www.jonespearson.com
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