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Russell Henry Wilcox, 89

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Russell Henry Wilcox, 89, of Park Rapids, died Thursday, April 16, 2009 at his home.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids. A luncheon will follow at the Park Rapids American Legion.

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Honorary pallbearers will be Daniel Wilcox, David Wilcox, Alissa Wilcox and Riley Wilcox.

He was born June 8, 1919, to Sidney and Anna Wilcox in Park Rapids. He attended Park Rapids public school, graduating in 1938. During his younger years, he worked for various businesses in Park Rapids and Bemidji, including Bishops, Park Rapids Creamery, Gill Bros. Clothing and Butler's Market. An unfortunate accident at Butler's left him without two fingers on his pitching hand during an era when he was playing for the Cubs in San Diego, effectively ending a promising baseball career.

He attended Bemidji State University until he was called to serve in the armed forces during World War II. On the day following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he proceeded to the U.S. Marine recruiting station, but his disabled hand led to a denied enlistment; the U.S. Army denied his enlistment as well. Finally, one year later, in 1942, he was allowed to serve in the U.S. Army. He was sent to Italy, where, as a member of the Tank Destroyers, he often worked behind enemy lines to provide intelligence on enemy operations. He received numerous military honors during the war, including a Bronze Star "for meritorious achievement in ground operations against the enemy in the European Theatre of Operations on or about Feb. 27, 1945." In all, he served three and a half years during World War II and remained in Europe for a period following the war as part of the occupation forces. During the Korean War, his country called him back to active duty, from which he returned home in 1952. He retired with 26 years of combined service in the Army and National Guard. Following his military service, he worked for the U.S. Post Office in Park Rapids and retired from there in 1984.

He married Donna Lee Dalen on Dec. 27, 1952, and lived in Bemidji and Moorhead, Minn., before returning to Park Rapids.

He enjoyed playing baseball, football, basketball, boxing and track in high school and he continued playing sports after graduation, including his stint with the Cubs organization and the military teams. He enjoyed golfing and was a member at Headwaters Golf Club, where he provided golf instruction to youngsters. He was a member of Riverside United Methodist Church and American Legion Post 212.

He is survived by his wife; sisters, La Donna Ogden and Mary Larsen, both of Park Rapids; sons, James of Minneapolis, Scott (Sherry) of Casper, Wyo., and Trent of Glendale, Ariz.; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Grant.

Online condolences may be left at www.jonespearson.com.

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