BEND, Ore. — Patty Pauline Russell, 102, formerly a longtime Casa Grande resident, died on April 19, 2021.
Mrs. Russell was born on May 15, 1918, in Cotton City (now Eloy) during the Spanish Flu epidemic and died in Bend during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her parents, Otis and Jessie Jordan, were cotton farmers from Erath County, Texas, who moved to Cotton City in 1916, four years after Arizona became a state. Her dad cleared the land and planted cotton on what was desert land that had never been cultivated. Plowing was done with horses, and rattlesnakes were plentiful. Cotton prices were high during World War I, but they dropped to only 10 cents a pound when the war ended. Her family, including her older sister, Edna, left Cotton City and homesteaded west of Casa Grande with the intention of planting cotton. However, there was no water for irrigation at that time and, after proving up on the homestead, the family moved to Glendale, where they could get water from the Salt River to grow cotton.
She graduated from Glendale High School in 1936 and attended the University of Arizona for a year, where she played on an all-star girls softball team. Afterward she attended business school and went to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Phoenix before and during World War II. She married her hometown sweetheart, Arthur Halbrooks, in 1942. He joined the Army Air Corps that year and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He became a bombardier on the B-17F Flying Fortress and was assigned to the 8th Air Force, based at RAF Chelveston, England. The unit began bombing German targets in November 1942. On Jan. 13, 1943, his aircraft was shot down by German antiaircraft fire over the railroad yards at Lille, France. The bomber, one of a strike force of 72, crashed in Pollinkhove, Belgium, killing all 10 crew members. They had been married less than five months. She continued to work for the FBI, where she was awarded the Certificate of Honorable War Service by J. Edgar Hoover. Meanwhile, her parents moved back to the homestead west of Casa Grande after the war, when decommissioned submarine engines allowed the farmers to drill wells and pump water to their cotton fields.
She met her second husband, Harlan "Russ" Russell, during the war, but she would not remarry until Art’s death was confirmed and the war was over. They were finally married in September 1946. Russ had farming experience, and cotton farming was in his blood. When her father died in 1948, they moved to Casa Grande, and Russ became a full-time farmer. He experimented with water-witching rods and, with them, drilled a second successful well, which provided much-needed irrigation for the cotton fields. The water-witching rods are still in the family. They raised three daughters and participated in the rich social life that small-town Casa Grande offered. She was a member of the Cotton Wives, Oasis Garden Club, Eastern Star and the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society. When the community built Hoemako Hospital in 1952, she became an auxiliary member. Russ died in 1984 doing what he loved, raising cotton. They had been married for 37 happy years.
She lived a long and fulfilling life. Beloved by her family and a wide circle of friends, she was known for her kindness, generosity and great sense of humor. She celebrated her 100th birthday on May 15, 2018, at Touchmark retirement community in Bend, surrounded by her children, grandchildren and extended family. She is survived by her three daughters, Susan Gilbreth of Sunriver, Oregon, Barbara Linam of Tucson and Carol Donohoe of Bend; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Burial beside Russ at Greenwood Cemetery in Phoenix.
Niswonger-Reynolds Funeral Home of Bend in charge of arrangements.