Russell Lee Vaagen, 61, a resident of Adel, IA passed away on January 4th, 2014, at Mercy Hospice in Johnston after a courageous battle with cancer. Visitation will be Wednesday from 2 to 7 p.m. with family receiving friends from 5 to 7 p.m. A Prayer Service will be held at 7:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, January 9th at St. John’s Catholic Church in Adel followed by a burial at Oakdale Cemetery.
Russ was born October 13, 1952, the son of Lyle Orland Vaagen and Norma Lee Putschler Vaagen of Dickinson, ND. Russ grew up in Dickinson and graduated from Trinity High School in 1970. In 1974, Russ graduated from the University of North Dakota with a double major in Social Work and Psychology before earning his Masters of Social Work with an emphasis in Clinical Social Work in 1975 from the University of Iowa. In 1979 Russ met the love of his life, Marjorie McMillin, and the two were married on August 30, 1980.
Russ’ passion in life was to help people. After graduation, he started his career at the West Central Mental Health Center (WCMHC) in Adel. In 1998, Russ became the director of the WCMHC. As director, Russ developed and led fundraising, public relations, program development and implementation, and outreach services for a tri-county area. In 2008, Russ transitioned to Eyerly Ball Community Mental Health Services in Des Moines, IA. Within the last year, Russ returned to providing services in Adel and surrounding areas by establishing the Dallas County branch of Eyerly Ball. Thousands of people’s lives are better today because of Russ’ devotion to helping others over his 38 year career.
Russ loved the outdoors and spent much of his time hunting, fishing, boating, and working on his property in the country. He was a pilot, woodworker, Model T owner and enthusiast, and an expert marksman. A visit to his family home in the timber would include wildlife, music, and laughter. Those close to him knew him to be prepared for any situation and to always have a backup for the backup. More importantly, he had a work ethic second to none. He was always extremely proud of his two daughters and loved spending time with his grandson.
Russ was preceded in death by his wife Marjorie and his father Lyle. He is survived by his daughter Kathryn and son-in-law Rob Franz, daughter Sarah Vaagen, grandson Tobin Franz, girlfriend Mary Bracken, mother Norma Vaagen, sisters Nancy Diede, Lori Ligman and Lee Vaagen, and brother Jeffrey Vaagen. He will be missed by family, friends, coworkers, and countless people that he has helped.
Memorial contributions can be made to Eyerly Ball to help continue mental health services in the Dallas County area. These efforts will allow Russ’ work to continue.
McCalley Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be left at www.mccalleyfuneralhome.com.