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Russell’s legacy will last forever

All of Blair County has shared in the sorrow that erupted — and which has continued — since county corrections officer Rhonda J. Russell died Nov. 17 in the line of duty.

At the same time, that sorrow has extended well beyond this county’s borders.

On Monday, when Russell was laid to rest at Blair Memorial Park in Antis Township, following a funeral service attended by hundreds at the Blair County Convention Center, sorrow was accompanied by overwhelming appreciation for the splendid service she provided — especially for her dedication to providing positive guidance to so many who had strayed from the right side of the law.

Additionally, she was remembered as a wonderful mother and friend — someone who made a positive difference and someone who, prior to her death, had seemed to have so much of life’s upbeat side ahead of her.

The remarks of Russell’s sons were particularly touching and reflected a deep love and respect for their mother.

It is tragic that the upbeat side of life for which she had seemed so destined is now lost, not only for herself but for members of her family and others who were close to her, and also for the Blair criminal justice system that, like Russell did, works to help so many of those who come before it.

So many of those who come before the courts are longing for help while regretting their wrongdoings.

Corrections officers have the opportunity, by way of their attitudes and dispositions, to be positive influences during the course of their brief contacts with those facing consequences of their crimes.

Many serving time in Blair County Prison were saddened by the news of Russell’s death, because of what a positive influence she had been to them.

Knowing the right words to say and exhibiting the right, caring attitude toward those with whom she came into contact went a considerable way toward imparting the message that the court system is much more than just about punishment — that it can be a stepping stone to a new, better path, for those who open themselves to that understanding.

Rhonda Russell helped her corrections officer colleagues excel, just like her colleagues helped her be the best she could be.

She is gone, but the help she provided along the way will remain alive and well in many who were fortunate enough to have been recipients and beneficiaries of her work and commitment during sometimes difficult circumstances.

Sorrow was indeed at the forefront on Monday, but it was right that appreciation was accorded a high place as well.

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