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Russell Francis Colton

Cedar Rapids

Russell Francis Colton, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, at the age of 89, surrounded by his family. Funeral service: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Cedar Memorial Park Funeral Home. A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 16, at Cedar Memorial Park Funeral Home. Interment: Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery.
Delivered on Feb. 15, 1929, in Jasper, Ind., Russ was the third of four boys born to the Rev. Ralph B. and Mrs. Blanche Colton. His eldest brother, Leslie, died at the age of 7, succumbing to scarlet fever. Russ and his family lived in Jasper until 1945, when they moved to Cedar Rapids after his father was named minister of Sinclair Presbyterian Church. It was not long after arriving in Cedar Rapids that Russ met his future wife and lifelong love, Delores, to whom he was married for 67 blessed and colorful years.
Russ and Delores (who Russ lovingly nicknamed "Dave" after her maiden name, David) were married at Sinclair Church in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 13, 1950, in a wedding presided over by his father. Soon after, they began their familial journey, bringing into their world three sons and a daughter within their first five years of marriage, and later adding two more sons for good measure.
After graduating with an engineering degree from the University of Iowa in 1952, Russ joined the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Biloxi, Miss., where he took up his other lifelong love, working with aircraft. Soon after, Russ and Delores moved to Evanston, Ill., where he obtained his master's degree in engineering from Northwestern University.
In 1959, Russ and Delores moved their family back to their beloved Cedar Rapids, where Russ took a job designing aircraft components for the burgeoning Collins Radio Co. Russ' immediate mastery of aeronautical engineering and design gained him notoriety in industry circles. He left Collins in 1964 to join his mentor and renowned aeronautical engineer, Dr. Alexander Lippisch, at Lippisch Research in Cedar Rapids. He later joined aeronautical engineering and design firms AeroSpace and J-Tec Associates, before returning to what then was known as Rockwell Collins, later to become Rockwell International in 1975. He remained there until his retirement in 1995. He continued to act as a consultant to Rockwell for the next several years.
Throughout his professional career, Russ lent his quiet ingenuity to creating breakthrough designs and components for the aeronautical and aerospace industries and beyond, obtaining many patents (the names of which always amused and mystified his kids and grandkids), such as piezoresistive accelerometer, wave meter and disposable respiratory parameter sensor. Ironically, this last patent falls well outside the realm of aerospace, but is Russ' most well-known invention: a medical device now widely used to help detect pneumonia and aid respiratory patients with breathing exercises.
At home, his engineering itch was scratched on endless DIY projects, from rewiring vacuum cleaners to attaching Velcro to socks to keep them from separating in the wash.
Throughout his long life, Russ' deeply held Christian beliefs guided him and touched those around him at every turn; his bottomless compassion, generosity and kindness was the bedrock on which he and Delores raised their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Russ was a tireless volunteer, whether he was fixing a friend's brakes, working bingo games for the Emerald Knights Drum and Bugle Corps or acting as a leader within the Calvin Sinclair Church community, where he took on any position that needed filling, from deacon to Sunday school teacher to elder. Of course, his most cherished calling was serving as choir director, a privilege he relished and faithfully undertook for nearly 50 years. In constant rehearsal mode, his novice piano playing and joyous singing filled the family home on a regular basis, inspiring a love of music in each of his children. Together, Russ and Delores created a place filled with love, laughter, enduring bonds and a whole lot of horsing around.
Russell was preceded in death by his parents, the Rev. Ralph B. and Mrs. Blanche Colton; older brothers, Leslie and Eldon Colton; and his second son, Dana Scott Colton (Denise) of Salisbury, N.C.
He is survived by his brother, Marvin (Lois) Colton of West Des Moines; loving wife, Delores of Cedar Rapids; and children, Cary (Ginger) of Lincoln, Neb., Craig (Karen) of Gastonia, N.C., Sara Long (John) of Cedar Rapids, Derek (Penny) of Edmond, Okla., and Shane (Amy) of Evanston, Ill. Forever a doting grandfather, Russ' heart perhaps was most consumed by an adoration of his 19 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He will be dearly missed by each and every one.
Memorials may be directed to Calvin Sinclair Presbyterian Church in memory of Russell.
Online condolences may be directed to the family at www.cedarmemorial.com under obituaries.