Donald Russell Jr., a broadcast engineer who worked in public media throughout his career, died April 6 at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Ill. He was 45.
At the time of his death, Russell worked at Illinois Public Media in Urbana. Known to friends and colleagues as “Don,” Russell joined the joint-licensee public broadcaster in May 2019. He was very skilled at maintaining and running the AudioVault radio automation system, according to colleagues, and was drawing up plans to upgrade WILL’s computer infrastructure in 2021.
“Don is part of the team to thank for all of our content streams running so smoothly,” said Lillie Duncanson, director of broadcast operations at Illinois Public Media. “While our audience may have never met him in person or heard or saw him on the air, his loss will be felt by all of us here in the central Illinois community.”
“We will all miss his supportive spirit and fun-loving nature, not to mention the impact he had on making WILL look and sound better,” she said.
Russell previously worked for Wisconsin Public Radio, where he specialized in radio broadcast engineering and IP-based broadcast systems. At Iowa Public Radio he managed radio broadcast and IT server systems.
As a sideline to his engineering work in public broadcasting, Russell spent time in Panama building an internet infrastructure.
Friends and family describe Russell as a “Mr. Fix-It” personality who had a good sense of humor and quick wit. In his spare time, he enjoyed ham radio and joined many amateur radio clubs. He also spent a good portion of his life as a first responder and loved music, computers and aviation. An animal lover, he was especially devoted to his beloved dog, Nukka.
“Don was an extraordinary engineer who could fix anything. But more than that, he was a wonderful colleague who loved public media. We will all miss Don’s warmth and positive spirit. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family,” said Moss Bresnahan, CEO of Illinois Public Media.
Although we lived far apart, we were good friends and we’d talk for hours about everything from tech to politics. When he didn’t reply to my message I typed his name into Google and saw this post. I’m very saddened. I’m really going to miss our friendship.