Russell Frederic Fjeldsted was born October 10, 1932 in Ephraim, Utah, to Fredrick James Fjeldsted and Edna Gertrude Gundry. Sadly, Russ’ mother passed away soon after giving birth. Frederick was unable to care for his small son, and so left him in the care of his maternal grandmother, Annie Peterson Gundry, in Tooele, Utah. Under the care of Annie, and a local wetnurse, Russ was soon thriving. Although not inclined towards church herself, Annie made sure young Russ attended his local ward faithfully and when she passed away in 1949, Russ was taken in by local members until he graduated high school. Russ attended the University of Utah as an Air Force ROTC cadet, and a Sigma Chi member. In the summers, he worked on the railroad to earn his tuition and living expenses. While attending the U, Russ was set up with a career woman, Barbara Croft, recent Journalism graduate of Utah State, who was working at the Salt Lake Tribune. It was a memorable night for the relatively reserved Barbara who when opening the door for Russ was greeted with an enthusiastic, “Let’s Blast Off!” She was escorted to his ancient jalopy in which a piece of wood replaced a missing window. He told Barbara someday he was going to paint a sunset on that panel.
This was the start to a true love story. Russ and Barbara were sealed for time and all eternity in the Logan Temple on May 4, 1955. Russ graduated at the U with a degree in Business and was assigned a post in Homestead, Florida to start his four years of service in the Air Force. Russ became a 2nd Lieutenant and was in charge of cleanup of aircraft that carried Atomic bombs. Training for this assignment included a unique opportunity, Russ was a living witness to the last above ground Atom Bomb Test, appropriately named El Diablo. He, along with 30 other observers, stood in a trench that was several hundred feet away from the bomb, which was attached to a two story high iron tower. The witnesses were told to put their hands over their closed eyes and bend over during the countdown. When the bomb detonated, Russ said the light was so bright, he could see the shoes of the man standing in front of him through his closed eyes, in the spaces between his fingers.
After Russ completed his Air Force service, he and Barbara decided to move back to Logan. Russ started working with Barbara’s father Jack Croft at The Sportsman, and found his dream job. Selling quality goods was heaven on earth for Russ. To further his education and excel in his career, he completed a MBA at Utah State University, while working full time and helping Barbara raise six kids. Everyone who shopped at The Sportsman has a story about Russ. When people came in who had accents - Russ suddenly spoke with their accent. Not to mock them, but because he empathized with people so closely. He helped high school kids who couldn’t afford a letterman jacket, or skis using layaway so they could fulfill their own dreams. He employed countless USU students, enabling them to complete their education and enrich their lives. While he was a wonderful salesman, he was perhaps not the best gift wrapper. If someone wanted a pair of Levi 501’s wrapped, he would pull out a few feet of wrapping paper, set the folded pants on one corner and then just roll them up into the paper like a butcher rolling a roast. Then he’d cut off a small piece of ribbon and slap it on the package with a Sportsman sticker and call it good. This slap and dash won over nearly everyone who experienced it, even the upper crust shoppers would laugh and take their rolled up Russ’ special just as it was. Retail became a family affair with all of the children being firmly converted to 100% cotton, 501 Jeans, Head Skis, Pendleton Blankets and Lucchese boots (well maybe not the boots so much). Community service was also important to Russ. He served as a Logan City Commissioner, Chair of the Library Board, Logan Power Board Advisory Member, Board member of Intermountain Power Agency, and Mayor of Logan. During his time in public service he was instrumental in shepherding many projects that benefit and improved Logan, including the golf course that makes entering Logan so beautiful, the bussing system which early on was known as Russ’s Busses, and he planned many of the parks that continually enrich the lives of Logan residents, including the Jens Johansen Park, the Canyon Entrance Park, and the Stewart Nature Park. Russ was also an involved USU Alumni and enthusiastically attended many sports and arts events at the university.
Russ was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served in many callings. He was in the bishopric of the 8th Ward (when the 8th ward was split he pushed hard for the new ward to be called the First Dam Ward - but more sober heads prevailed and it became the 25th ward), the bishop of a USU Student Ward, and a member of the stake high council, but his favorite calling in church was leading the music, he especially loved the big bold hymns and occasionally offered a song from the pulpit as part of a talk. His love of good music was such that he felt it was his duty to impress upon all church music leaders that tempo matters, indeed if he felt the music was being played a bit too slowly, he could often be heard singing out just a half a note before the organ hit its mark.
Of course family life with six children was busy and hectic, but somehow Russ found time to attend nearly every basketball, football, baseball, and tennis game. Beyond that he shared his love of fishing, skiing and the great outdoors with his children. Family vacations were not many but each was epic. An especially memorable trip was the car trip to Alaska. After traveling by car, train, and ferry to reach Anchorage, the family put the Suburban on a barge back to Seattle and spent two weeks driving up the Kenai Peninsula seeing Alaska with family friends. Of course, funding these excursions was always a worry so Russ was committed to saving money at home. This included a hard, fast rule for three minute showers. If he felt the children were becoming a bit lax in their shower hustle, he’d add some encouragement by turning off the hot water! There’s no feeling quite like the shock of the water temperature dropping to 35 or so degrees while you’re trying to rinse the shampoo out of your hair! Waking up to a cold house was common, occasionally there would be frost on the inside of the window! If ever the children complained they were too cold, Russ said, “Put on a sweater.” However, it could not be said that Russ was a disciplinarian. Commonly after the nightly family prayer around the parental bed, the boys would start to poke and tease each other, Russ’ encouragement to get to bed would get louder and louder until he’d shout, “That’s it! I’m getting the belt!” At which point all the children would run to their beds, laughing their heads off. Russ was a great dad, he was an excellent example of independence, faith, generosity, unconditional love, good advice and enthusiasm
Russ ostensibly retired from The Sportsman sometime after 2000. In reality, he still stopped by almost daily. Retirement did give him license to pursue more interests. He began painting and improved steadily over the years. He loved sharing his art and his poetry. He bought a house in Paris, Idaho, named it The Rusty Spur and restored it from near ruin to a cozy home. He loved visiting the family cabin at Bear Lake and went up weekly to water the trees and enjoy nature. His interest in cooking increased. He became the master of chocolate chip cookies, granola, lasagna, and grilled salmon. His interest in the parks continued, he just recently convinced Logan City (after a considerable letter writing campaign) to create the Riverside Drive Trail, along the Logan River. Russ was indefatigable, it was quite a shock to his family when his normally robust health began to fail last week. He bumped his head in a fall a few weeks ago, and the consensus is that perhaps it was more serious than initially thought. His family is grateful he did not suffer for long, but returned quickly to his family in Heaven. Russ is survived by his beloved wife Barbara Croft, and his children David (Jane), Kristan, John, Paul (Patricia), Patrice (Kirk) Ashby, and Mark (Holly), 20 grandchildren and lots of great-grandchildren.
There will be a viewing at Allen-Hall Mortuary, 34, E. Center Street, Logan, on Friday, April 14th, from 6:00 - 8:00pm. There will also be a viewing Saturday morning from 10:30 - 11:30am at the Logan Riverside Ward on Lauralin Drive, the funeral will follow at noon. After the funeral there will be a graveside interment at Logan City Cemetery with Military Honors. In lieu of flowers, the family requests you make an effort to shop local. Russ wrote and recorded a hilarious song titled, “Box Store Lament.” The family would like to sincerely thank the staff at Terrace Grove and Sunshine Terrace Hospice for taking such great care of our dear Father .
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