Russell Gilkey died on Friday, June 10, 2016 at his home in Lawrenceville, Georgia at the age of 95.
He was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1920 where he grew up, the youngest of three brothers. At Hopkinsville High School, Russell was president of the National Honors Society, a member of the Science Club and a back for the football team. He graduated in the class of 1938 ½ and went on to the University of Kentucky where he graduated with a BS in Industrial Chemistry in 1943.
Russell met Gloria Reid in a chemistry lab during their undergraduate studies. They were married in October of 1944 and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2014. After graduation, the couple moved to Akron, Ohio where he worked as a chemist at BF Goodrich until he joined the US Navy. The pair then relocated to Corpus Christi, Texas where Russell was stationed during World War II.
Following the War, Russell was awarded a PhD from the University of Illinois in 1949. He completed his PhD program as a member of Alpha Chi Sigma where he was Vice-Master Alchemist. After the birth of their first child Sandra, in 1949, the family moved to Kingsport, Tennessee where their second child, Marilyn was born in 1951. In Kingsport, Russell joined Tennessee Eastman as a research polymer chemist where he worked for 30 years from 1949 to 1979. He was awarded various patents over the course of his tenure at Tennessee Eastman and was a member of the American Chemical Society from 1949 to 2014.
After retirement Russell focused on his hobby of raising and hybridizing rhododendrons. He was an active member of the Southeastern Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society from 1969 until his death.. Russell and his wife were awarded the American Rhododendron Society's Bronze Medal in 1990 for their lifetime contributions to the organization, including the creation of various unique hybrid varieties, sharing propagation techniques, and contributions to the society's monthly newsletter. His rhododendron and azalea garden still survives at the home in Kingsport where he and his wife lived for 43 years.
Russell was an avid golfer and enjoyed playing duplicate bridge with his wife. Yet through the years, his greatest personal passion was tending his extensive garden. As a husband, father and friend, he was defined by loyalty, integrity and tenacity.
Russell's wife, Gloria, passed away April 1, 2015. He is survived by two daughters: Sandra Miller of Atlanta, Georgia; and Marilyn Gilkey of Raymond, Maine. He is survived by two grandchildren: Claire Miller of Atlanta, Georgia; and Andrew Miller of Brooklyn, New York, and two great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were handled by the Cremation Society of Georgia.