Russell Gordon Freeman 1937 ~ 2011
Russell Gordon Freeman, loving husband, father, grandfather, school teacher of art for 29 years, artist, classical music enthusiast, avid reader, chocolate lover, roofer, chess coach, soccer coach and regional competition director, sports lover, racer of pigeons, temple servant and oldest brother of nine, passed away at the age of 73 on Saturday evening, May 7, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.in Salt Lake City, Utah. Gordon was born in Murray, Utah on December 12, 1937 to Russell Hamblin and Ruth Olsen Freeman. Gordon was the first of nine children, and he helped to financially support the family starting at the age of eight, by helping his father Russell roof homes. Gordon also became a father figure to his eight siblings and when he was 18 years old his father died. Gordon continued to work hard to support the family. Eventually, he was able to attend the University of Utah where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Art. While at the university, he was one of the top art students in his class and was especially recognized for his water color paintings. The best art class he ever attended was the one where he met his sweetheart, Mary Colleen Christiansen. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on July 14, 1967. After graduation, Gordon and Colleen decided to move to Honolulu, Hawaii where Gordon started graduate school at the University of Hawaii. While living in Hawaii, their first child, Mark Isaac Freeman was born on January 10, 1969. After a year of graduate school, Gordon left school and moved back to Utah with his wife and son and began teaching school for the Granite School District at John F. Kennedy Jr. High, where he taught for 29 years in the same class room. Gordon and Colleen's second child, Gregory Gordon Freeman, was born in Murray, Utah on April 22, 1971. With the desire to have a daughter, Gordon suggested to Colleen to adopt a little girl from Korea. Mary Camille Freeman Howard was born in Korea on June 15, 1975 and arrived in her new home 10 months later (1976). While teaching at John F. Kennedy Jr. High, Gordon mainly taught art classes and some history as well. He also found time to do some of his own painting. His favorite subjects, influenced by his time in Hawaii, were seascapes, hibiscus flowers and lighthouses. In addition to his classes, he coached the chess team for many years, winning several state chess championships. He would spend extra time in the summers taking his top chess students to tournaments in the western U.S. He also spent many summers roofing homes, with his sons working by his side during their teenage years. When his sons started playing soccer, Gordon decided to temporarily put his passionate hobby of breeding, training and racing pigeons aside, to immerse himself into a sport he knew little about, to become qualified to coach his boys on a competitive level. Eventually he became the competition director for the local soccer league and found ex-professional soccer players to coach his sons. Gordon continued teaching, having a positive impact in the lives of many students, and after 29-years he retired in 1998. Shortly after retiring, Gordon and Colleen started serving at the Jordon River Temple in the Baptistry, and continued serving until the spring of 2010. In October of 2001, while roofing a home with his best friend Larry Mitchell, Gordon blacked out and fell off the roof, severely injuring his spinal cord, leaving him a paraplegic. With the same spirit and determination Gordon utilized throughout his life, he took on this new challenge with an amazing attitude, always expressing gratitude for his blessings. He hardly ever complained, but instead lived life to the fullest extent possible, leading by example and leaving people wondering how he did it. In the end, Gordon's body started to give in to his challenging physical circumstances, and through the course of only a couple of months, his bone marrow could no longer produce blood cells and his kidneys shut down. In the last few minutes prior to his death, Gordon was surrounded in love by his wife Colleen, his three children and their spouses, his nine grandchildren and Colleen's brother James Christiansen and spouse Susan. Gordon is survived by a loving family which includes: wife Mary Colleen Christiansen, children: Mark I Freeman (Mirabai Stein Freeman), Gregory Gordon Freeman (Holly Anderson Freeman), and Mary Camille Freeman Howard (Beau Ashton Howard); nine grandchildren (from oldest to youngest): Joshua Kiger Freeman, Dani Alexis Moreno, Akala Marie Freeman, Melissa Colleen Freeman, Cierra Nicole Freeman, Scott Isaac Freeman, Rylie Kai Howard, Sydney Emma Freeman, and Logan Russell Freeman; mother Ruth Olsen Freeman and siblings: Lynn O. Freeman, Kendall Freeman, Wayne E. Freeman (Sieglinde), Linda Schimbeck (Deon), Anita M. Gardner (Roger), Steven R. Freeman (Colleen) and Von Freeman (VaLonne). He was preceded in death by his grandparents: Isaac E. Freeman and Mable M. Sorensen, Royal A. Olsen and Pearl Bessant; father Russell Hamblin Freeman and sister Camille Freeman Turnbeaugh. Funeral Services will be Friday May 13 at 12:00 noon at the Holladay North Stake Center, 4395 S Albright Drive (2145 E). The family will also receive friends Thursday evening, May 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Wasatch Lawn Mortuary, 3401 Highland Dr., SLC, Utah and Friday May 13, from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. at the Holladay North Stake Center (address above). In lieu of donating flowers, the family would like to encourage donations to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Perpetual Education Fund, which Gordon loved so much.