Mark E. Russell
September 4, 1950-March 31, 2023
Mark was born in Connersville, Indiana, on September 4, 1950, to Martha Ann and Grantland Russell. Mark grew up in Marion, Indiana, and had a wonderful childhood, forming lifelong friendships and creating many fond memories along the way. Mark was an excellent student and member of the National Honor Society; he was a member of Marion High School’s swim, tennis, and basketball teams. He also became an accomplished water skier during his family vacations to the lake. After graduating from Marion High School in 1969, Mark took a year off before enrolling at Indiana University. He graduated with a degree in English.
Being a Free Spirit, Mark followed his own path of curiosity as a young man. He had a colorful and interesting life, including, but not limited to, spending summers lifeguarding on his beloved Nantucket Island, backpacking around Europe, living on a kibbutz in Israel, studying at a monastery in the hills of Scotland, working on an Indian reservation, living in a teepee for a year, and working on an organic dairy farm in North Dakota.
Mark played banjo as well as the fiddle and studied Appalachian Mountain music in the hills of West Virginia. His love of music and interest in working on stringed instruments led to his chosen career as a luthier. He apprenticed in the workshop of Ole Steffan Dahl beginning in 1980, and attended as a member of the initial class of the String Tech program at Indiana University. An invitation from Johnson String Instruments in 1982 led him to Boston, where he worked in their string repair department. Returning to Bloomington in 1984, he founded his business: Mark E. Russell Violins.
In 1987, he was awarded a four-year Fulbright scholarship to study violin making at the Newark Technical Institute in England; while there he met his wife, Lesley. They were married in Indiana and settled in Fishers where Mark re-opened his violin studio. In 1990, he received the honor of being awarded the esteemed title: “Official Luthier of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis”, which he enjoyed immensely, graciously invited back year after year.
Mark was a perfectionist and very passionate about his work; he developed his skills and became a true craftsman putting his heart and soul into building and repairing stringed instruments, which he continued for many years until a diagnosis of Prion disease (CJD) in July 2022 robbed him of his abilities.
With all Mark has done and achieved in his life, his greatest love has always been for his family, especially his children, Virginia, Michael, and Christopher.
Mark passed peacefully at home cradled by his wife and son Christopher on March 31, 2023. We were so blessed to be able to stand side-by-side with Mark on his very difficult journey. Out of tragedy, our love grew deeper.
Mark is survived by his loving family: wife, Lesley; daughter, Virginia Hoke (Trevor); sons, Michael and Christopher; mother, Martha Russell; sister, Linda Gallienne (Jim); grandchildren, Madeline and Zoe Hoke; niece, Maggie Kuharik; and nephew, Brad Gallienne (Rachel).
Mark joins his beloved family gone before him – father, Grantland Russell; grandparents, Everetth Obediah, Bonnie Edwards, and Clarence and Selva Russell.