A Flowery Branch woman is “hoping for closure” when her family holds an inurnment service, with full military honors, for her late husband Jan. 3 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, D.C.
“It’s been four long months,” Eleanor B. Coppedge said Tuesday.
Her husband was Ken M. Russell, a retired businessman and Navy veteran who had died on Aug. 10, less than two weeks after he had lost the Republican primary for the new State House District 103 seat.
“We had picked up his last two political signs and he had spotted they had just cut the grass that day,” Coppedge said. “When we got back home, he decided to go back over there and pick up a couple bags of grass clippings. He never came home.”
Russell, who was an avid gardener, collapsed at the site, Thurmon Tanner Parkway at Phil Niekro Boulevard.
After police had notified her, Coppedge hurried to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where she learned her husband had died.
Autopsy results revealed that nothing was medically wrong with Russell other than “his heart just got out of rhythm and unless you’re there (to treat the condition) in a certain period of time, there’s nothing you can do,” his widow said.
After his death, the family held a memorial service at Memorial Park South Funeral Home in Flowery Branch.
But Russell’s last wishes were “to be cremated and to be buried in Arlington,” Coppedge said.
He had spent five years as an officer for the U.S. Navy and five years as a member of Naval Criminal Investigative Service, spending one year in Vietnam.
Russell, who was 77 when he died, “qualified for full honors” as part of the service, Coppedge said.
“This is going to put closure to (his passing) for me, not that I’m not going to think about him again, but so that life can move on,” she said.
Coppedge praised Memorial Park South’s efforts in the matter.
“They have taken care of everything up at Arlington, once I gave them all the documents and everything,” she said.
Jennifer Willie, administrative assistant at the funeral home, said the process didn’t involve too much red tape.
“We just had to submit his (military discharge record) and other paperwork and, unfortunately, there’s a waiting time (for the service to be scheduled),” she said.
Russell’s life featured other public service beyond the military, as he had also retired as a special agent from the FBI.
The native of Charleston, S.C., owned a private investigative firm for 18 years, contracting with state and federal agencies for background checks.
He moved more than seven years ago to the Sterling on the Lake subdivision in Flowery Branch, where he was a founding member and former vice president of the South Hall Republican Club and co-founder and volunteer co-manager of the Spout Springs Library Farmers Market.
“He loved Flowery Branch,” Coppedge said. “He was the happiest here he had ever been. And he loved being involved in politics. He kept saying, ‘I don’t know why I never did this before.’”
Russell earned 41 percent of the vote July 31 in his bid for the new State House District 103 seat that straddles Hall and Gwinnett counties. Lawrenceville businessman Timothy Barr won the GOP bid with 59 percent of the vote, and was unopposed on the fall ballot.
Before and during that campaign, Russell’s political energy was contagious.
“I have certainly become more involved in things now in my life than I ever was before,” Coppedge said. “So, that’s been a good thing for me.”