Joined the Boston Olympics amateur hockey team in the 40s

 

MELROSE — Russell T. Priestley, lifelong resident of Melrose, departed the physical world on Friday, February 25, 2022. He was 99 years old.

Born on July 17, 1922, Russ was one of five children of the late Bernard G. and Olive C. (Phippen) Priestley. He grew up on Washington Street in Melrose and graduated from Melrose High School (which he walked to through many blizzards, uphill both ways). He and his brothers were all inducted into the Melrose High School Athletic Hall of Fame. His sister Olive helped found the MHS Girls Ice Hockey Team. Russ captained the high school hockey team, played in college, and joined the Boston Olympics amateur hockey team in the 1940s.

After high school, Russ attended the University of Illinois for a year and a half before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 to become a test pilot. He served during World War II, mainly in the Pacific Theater, including 18 months on Guam. He qualified to fly 32 different aircraft with anywhere from one to four engines. In those days, airplanes were transported by ship and assembled on site; then someone had to test every one of them to make sure it would fly. That’s what Russ did, until the war ended.

Returning home in 1946, Russ met his future wife, Nancy Lynch, at a Red Sox game. They married on August 7, 1948, and shared 37 wonderful years together, while raising a family of six boys, before her passing in 1985 from MS.

In the early years of his career, Russ worked as a cartoonist for various publications, including the Boston Globe. After that, he started a business in Boston as a commercial artist for numerous organizations, such as John Hancock. For many years he commuted to the city every day by train from Melrose Station, until he retired at age 65. In his “golden” years, Russ took up all sorts of activities, such as teaching a PAL course in cartooning for 3rd-6th graders in Melrose schools; working as an editor for the online newsletter, the Melrose Mirror; and going on ocean cruises to far-off places with special friends.

In his last years, Russ lived in the Residence at Melrose Station, where he connected with a number of old friends and came full circle to the place where he began his daily commute.

Russ leaves behind five sons and their families: Steven J. Priestley of Portland, Maine; Michael W. (and Joanne) Priestley of Stowe, Vt.; Joseph K. Priestley of Newton Upper Falls; Russell T. Priestley, Jr. of Haverhill, N.H.; and William S. (and Darlene) Priestley of Piermont, N.H.; along with nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren (so far). He was predeceased by his oldest son, James R. Priestley, and son John, who died in infancy from SIDS. He also leaves behind three half-sisters, Jean Flanagan, Marie Dolloff, and Anne Spencer, and fond memories of his own siblings, all deceased: Gilbert “Gil” Priestley, Olive “Marie” Ryan, Bob Priestley, and Warren “Git” Priestley.

All are invited to a memorial reception on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at Mt. Hood Golf Club, 100 Slayton Rd., Melrose, from 12 – 4 p.m.

To leave a message of support for the family, please visit RobinsonFuneralHome.com.