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Russell Marion Betts

Russell Marion Betts, 73, a resident of Pendleton died on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009 at St. Anthony Hospital.

Russell was born in Moscow, Idaho on Feb.,10, 1936 to Russell A. and Mildred (Fairley) Betts. He attended high school in Wallace, Idaho. He served his country in the U.S. Army Infantry Division in Korea. He attended Officer’s Training and was commissioned. He served in the Reserves until 1969, where he was captain and commander of a Reserve Group, in Klamath Falls.

While attending the Forestry School in Missoula, Mont., Russ was the Ski Patrol Leader for the three ski areas located in the Missoula area. He competed with the University Ski team, racing both downhill and cross-country. Russell received his Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Forestry.

His interest in mountain climbing adventures increased during 1962 when he was lifted by helicopter to the backwoods of Sequoia National Park, (NPS) to serve as the Remote Seasonal Park Ranger, climbing peaks and walking through miles of remote areas for four to five months.

Russ received a commendation signed by President Johnson for his heroic efforts of climbing one of the highest peaks in the black of the night, to use his “walkie-talkie” device to hit the repeaters, allowing him to secure helicopter services to remove a severely injured hiker. It was only through much difficulty that he was able to convince the NPS that the injured hiker would not survive if he didn’t receive immediate rescue. Russ returned to the injured hiker, climbing down the peak, still in the black of the night. He was unaware of the helicopter actually being dispatched until he heard the rotors in the early morning dawn. It was only through his heroic efforts, did this “unknown” hiker survive.

Russ has had many assignments during his career with the Federal Government, including the Northern Forest Fire Laboratory in Missoula. In 1963 he accepted his first full-time employment with the Bureau of Land Management in Carson City, Nev. transferring in a few months to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colo. Russ planned and led the “longest length of descent and steepest incline including an overhang” evacuation training session for potentially injured climbers on the face of Longs Peak. Russ was invited to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska by a group of “outstanding” climbers, but declined the invite due to work commitments.

Other Federal assignments included the Lava Beds National Monument in Tulelake, Calif.; Winema National Forest, both in Klamath Falls and Chiloquin; Deschutes National Forest in Bend, where he was in charge of the Bachelor Ski Area and all backcountry rescue; Fremont National Forest, Lakeview; and two separate assignments on the Umatilla National Forest in Pendleton, where he retired in April of 1994, and has continued to live.

Russ had remained active in his retirement kayaking the Colorado River of the Grand Canyon with a group of floaters; fishing, bird watching, fly-tying, gardening, and primarily keeping busy assisting friends, family and his church. He was a volunteer for the Gideons, a member of the Pendleton Bird Club, the Blue Mountain Flycasters, and an avid fisherman. He also took care of the lawn, general repairs, and painting at the church. He loved serving the Lord and his family and friends. Over his lifetime he had climbed Mt. Rainier, all three of the Three Sisters Mountains, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Whitney.

Russ is survived by his wife Connie Betts in Pendleton; son Derek Russell Betts of Reno, Nev.; daughter Shannon Nicole (Betts) Tracy of Woodland, Wash.; sister and brother-in-law Camille and Bryon Oliver of Missoula.; grandchildren Rachel, Tanner, Mackenzie and Connor; Russ was also married to Joan (Hedlund) Gregory, mother to his two children.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009 at the Free Methodist Church in Pendleton. Contributions in memory of Russell Betts may be made to the Blue Mountain Wildlife Refuge or to the Malheur Field Station, and may be sent in care of Burns Mortuary of Pendleton, P.O. Box 489, Pendleton 97801.

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