Family and friends pay tribute to Russell, wounded on May 4

Kiera Manion-Fischer

Jim Russell used to say he had five great years at Kent State and one very bad day.

Russell was one of the students wounded on May 4, 1970. He died of a heart attack at his home in Deer Island, Ore., June 23.

The May 4 Task Force held a memorial service for him Friday at the Kiva, where 68 people gathered to pay their respects.

Some of Russell’s family visited from Oregon for the event.

Nelda Pelosi, Russell’s widow, said her family had a public and family memorial in Oregon, but said the memorial at Kent State was closure for the members of the May 4 Task Force who got to know him.

Kelly Litzenberg, secretary for the May 4 Task Force, began by reading some of Russell’s testimony from the federal grand jury trial in 1974.

In it, Russell described the events of May 4. He was shot in the head and thigh.

“I saw them stop and turn, and I saw rifles aimed in the direction I was looking . I felt a hammer-like blow to my head, which knocked me to my knees,” Russell said in his testimony.

Russell and his friend Joe Lewis returned regularly from Oregon to speak at the commemorations. Lewis was also wounded. They also spoke about their experiences on May 4 to high school and college students in Oregon.

The Task Force showed video of Russell from the May 4 commemorations in 2005 and 2007.

“Before the day I was shot, I didn’t know members of my Kent State family,” Russell said at the 2007 Commemoration.

Friends and family shared their memories.

Alan Canfora was another student wounded on May 4.

“We did become bonded as a family,” Canfora said. “We didn’t know each other on May 4. We came to know each other as a result of this movement.”

Associate provost Laura Davis teaches the May 4 class in the spring.

“He was very passionate,” Davis said. “Very passionate about the people he loved. Very passionate about the idea of teaching.”

Pelosi got up to speak after some encouragement from Canfora. She talked about first meeting Russell 32 years ago.

“He said, ‘I can’t promise you’ll be rich,'” Pelosi said. “‘I can’t promise you’ll be famous. I can’t promise you’ll never be bored.’ Even when five minutes of boredom would be really nice, I was never bored.”

After the candlelight march, participants gathered next to the Gym Annex where Canfora said Jim Russell had been shot, on a spot now covered by the building.

They placed the candles on the ground next to the building.

“We’ll never forget you brother,” Canfora said.

Contact academics reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].