Russell M. Betts

Born: Mon., Feb. 10, 1936
Died: Sun., Dec. 6, 2009

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Russell Marion Betts, born in Moscow, Idaho, February 10, 1936, to parents Russell A. Betts and Mildred Fairley Betts, passed away December 6, 2009, in Pendleton, Oregon. A memorial service will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, December 12, 2009 at the Free Methodist Church in Pendleton, Oregon. 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, PO Box 489, Pendleton, OR 97801. Send condolences to the family or sign the register at Burns Mortuary of Pendleton is in charge of arrangements. Russ graduated from high school in Wallace, Idaho and the University of Montana, School of Forestry, Missoula, Mt, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree. He competed with the University Ski Team, racing both downhill and cross country. While attending college, he was Ski Patrol Leader for the three ski areas located in the Missoula, MT area. Russ served in the U.S. Army Infantry Division in Korea, and attended Officer's Training and was commissioned. Serving in the Reserves until 1969, he was a Captain and Commanding Officer of the Army Reserve Group in Klamath Falls, OR. Russ retired from the US Forest Service in April 1994 in Pendleton, OR after many assignments with the Federal Government. He worked for the USFS a number of summers in the Kellogg, ID area during high school and college. In 1962, he was hired as a Seasonal Park Ranger in the backwoods of Sequoia National Park climbing peaks and hiking through miles of backcountry for 4-5 months in 1962. He was flown in by helicopter, and food drops were made intermittently. Russ received a letter of commendation signed by President Lyndon 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 repeater, attempting to secure helicopter services to remove a severely injured climber. It was through many difficult discussions, that he convinced the NPS that the injured hiker would not survive if immediate rescue at daybreak wasn't provided. Russ climbed down the peak still in the black of the night, returning to the injured climber. 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 worked at the Northern Forest Fire Laboratory in Missoula, MT, while working on a Master's Degree, where he met and married Joan Hedlund Gregory. In 1963 Russ was hired by BLM, Carson City, NV for his first permanent position. He transferred to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO where he was again responsible for "the climbers safety." He led the "longest length of descent over the steepest incline including an overhang" evacuation training session for potentially injured climbers on the face of Longs Peak. He also was in charge of the ski area and backcountry safety for hikers. He attended the NPS Albright Training Center in Grand Canyon, AZ for NPS personnel when he first hiked to the bottom of the canyon and attended an Easter morning sunrise service over the beautiful canyon walls. He returned to Rocky Mountain National Park for a period of time, followed by a transfer to the Lava Beds National Monument, Tule Lake, CA, where he was trained in spelunking and the rescue of spelunkers. In 1967 Russ transferred to the USFS, Winema National Forest, working both in the Forest Office two times and the Chiloquin Ranger District, followed by a transfer to the Deschutes National Forest in Bend, OR, where Russ was in charge of the Mt. Bachelor Ski area and mountain rescue, and worked on the development of a visitor center in the lava fields. The Umatilla National Forest was his next assignment, followed by a move to the Fremont National Forest in Lakeview. During his tenure there, he met and married Connie Conant on March 10, 1979. He and Connie returned to the Umatilla National Forest where they have continued to live on Perkins Avenue and have been active members of the Pendleton Free Methodist Church. Russ is survived by his wife Connie, his two children, son Derek Russell Betts and wife Sherrie and their two children Tanner and Mackenzie of Reno, NV and daughter Shannon Betts Tracy and her husband Dan, and their two children Rachel and Connor of Woodland, WA. His sister Camille Oliver and Byron live in Missoula, MT and Yuma, AZ and their daughter Renee', husband Peter, and their three daughters Kendra, Zoe and Jenna live in Missoula, MT. Russ has always been active – climbing Mt. Rainier, each of the 3 Sisters, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Whitney. He was invited to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska in the 60's by a group of "outstanding" climbers, but declined due to work commitments. He loved gardening, flyfishing, fly tying, and birding. He kayaked the Colorado River of the Grand Canyon with a group of floaters, and the Salmon, the Rogue, the Snake and the Deschutes Rivers. Russ was a Gideon's Volunteer, member of the Pendleton Bird Club and the Blue Mountain Flycasters. He has been active in the maintenance of his church and surrounding areas. Russ was a humble and simple man, well known for his servant's heart; joyfully and whole-heartedly filling any need he heard of or saw. RUSS LOVED SERVING THE LORD AND HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS. HE WILL BE DEARLY MISSED BY ALL.

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