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Features

December 7, 2012

Centenarian recalls travels, West Point history

Fanny Russell enjoys her memories, feels at peace

DUNCAN — Much can be seen by one person in 100 years and Fanny Russell of Duncan, who celebrates her centennial birthday today, has seen a lot and still has quite a bit of spunk.

Russell was born Dec. 7, 1912, in Wynnewood but grew up in Hennepen as an only child. Her mother was Chickasaw and her father Choctaw and she says her childhood was nothing exciting because there were no siblings to run around with.

If you ask Russell what has been a big part of her secret to life, she will tell you cooking. This is an activity she has been doing since she was young, both as a pleasure and a job. When she was 14 in the mid-1920s, she left her mother to go work for a young family.

“I met a lady in Tulsa, Mrs. Gordon Fisher, and I worked for her and moved around with her,” said Russell. “She traveled where there was water because she had a yacht.”

From Tulsa, Russell went with Fisher and her family, which included two children, to Atlanta, Ga., then on to Baltimore, Md.

Fisher cared for Russell much like she did her own children, as whenever they were given something, Russell was also given the same. There are many fond memories of that time, she said.

“We got lost in Washington D.C. and traveled through the Smoky Mountains,” she said. “There was a lot of fun and a lot of beauty during that time.”

They stayed in Baltimore for several years and while there in 1940, Fisher had a larger yacht built and the day of its christening Russell was supposed to travel to Denver, Colo., for the summer but Fisher told her to put it off for a day.

“She told me, ‘Fanny, I’m going to take you where you’ll see something you’ll never see again,” Russell said. “We went in a limo and I sat in the front row on the ground in front of her at the changing of the color guard at West Point.”

After the ceremony, she was able to see three battleships that were anchored near the school, one of which was the USS Oklahoma. Soon after that day, Fisher went on a trip to Brazil and returned to the states ill. She was taken directly to California and Russell stayed in Colorado, never to see her again.

“I had a beautiful life working and living with that family,” she said. “I lived in Denver for a while and cooked for different families until I got old.”

Her final job was working for a Catholic priest until she herself became too sick to continue working. Russell moved to Duncan in 1999 where she is cared for by her cousin. She has had two cancer operations and a cracked hip, yet she feels at peace.

“You never know what’s next for you but you go with what God has for you,” she said. “God’s been good to me and has blessed me and I love Him with all my heart and all my mind. He’s showing me the way.”

Russell’s family is having a small get-together Saturday, in celebration of her milestone birthday.

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