Richard Geary Rusk
Richard Rusk of Athens, Ga, passed away January 28, 2018.
Rich was born in Washington, DC to Dean and Virginia Rusk, and raised in both DC and Scarsdale, NY. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School, where he excelled at football, shop class and bass fishing. He graduated from Cornell University and would complete United States Marine Corps Recruit Training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and armor school at Camp Pendleton (8th Tank Battalion, 4th Marines). He was a qualified expert on the rifle range, shooting both right and left handed due to an eye injury. He also turned up at a full dress inspection in front of a four-star Marine general, bloodied from a street fight in Tijuana.
In 1970, Rich fell in love with the town of Nome, Alaska, and spent the next 14 years there fishing, hunting, building houses, and running a small newspaper, The Bering Straits, with his pal Phil Dunne. In Nome, he fathered a son, Ryan, with Linda Gologergen. He founded a construction company, Nome Builders, worked for Dick Galleher’s bush flying outfit, and once hiked across St. Lawrence Island because he had nothing better to do. In Nome, Rich began friendships that would last all his life, and there he did meet and marry Frances Louise Mitchell.
In 1984, Rich moved with Fran and their children Andy and Sarah to Athens, GA, in order to spend time with his beloved parents. Together with his father, Rich wrote As I Saw It, Dean Rusk's memoir of his life of service and the war in Vietnam.
To support his family, Rich took work as a long-haul truck driver with McLane Southeast and Apache transport, and wrote for the short-lived Oconee Arrow newspaper. While working for the Arrow, Rich first learned of the mass lynching at Moore’s Ford Bridge and, inspired by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, launched a movement to investigate the crime, commemorate the victims and bring healing to the community. The Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee would attract national attention to this forgotten atrocity, re-open the FBI case, and establish a scholarship fund for children in Clarke, Oconee and Walton counties.
In 1991, Rich married Janice Lanford, to whom he was absolutely devoted. Together they built a beautiful home outside of Watkinsville. Rich and Janice were wonderfully social and hosted many dinners for their growing family and circle of friends. Together they would travel the world and the American West, and eventually retire to a house in Athens. Janice would succeed in dragging Rich to church with enough regularity that he would have himself baptized in 1996 by his dear friend, the Reverend Peter Crick.
Rich became active with the Oconee River Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Georgia Climate Change Coalition. He survived a near-fatal staph infection. He stalked bonefish and tarpon in Belize with his brother-in-law Bill. He rebuilt churches in Louisiana after Katrina with his friend Waymond Mundy. He fished the great rivers of Montana with son Andy and old pal Phil Dunne. He hiked long sections of the Appalachian trail, solo. He marched on Washington and the State Capitol for environmental action and civil rights. He devoured books. He was always good for a hot meal or a tank of gas. He fished with a veracity that belied his catch-and-release philosophy. He was kind. He preferred Labrador retrievers, Estwing hammers and Mitchell model 300 spinning reels. He was generous to a fault, patient and stubborn. He stood up for others. He got involved. He carried burdens for people that he never met. He lived exactly the sort of life that is impossible to summarize in these few short paragraphs, and he leaves this world a better place than he found it.
He is survived by his sister Peggy and brother David, his sons Andy and Ryan, daughters Lane and Sarah, granddaughter Sarah, innumerable cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, grandchildren, and fishing buddies, and by his darling wife Janice, who will ever be the light of his world.
A memorial will be held Monday, Feb. 5 at 1 p.m. at St. Gregory Episcopal church in Athens. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his honor to Trout Unlimited, The Georgia Climate Change Coalition, the Southern Poverty Law Center or Vietnam Veterans for Peace.