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To The Family
Life Story / Obituary
Known as “Big Russ” to many who knew him, Russell Maclam was a gentle giant with a big heart. He could even be described as a big teddy bear who was fiercely protective of those he treasured. Russ was a stranger to none and a friend to all who often said of himself that he could make friends in a telephone booth. In fact, he was a real people person whose job as a salesman later in life was a perfect fit for his charismatic and outgoing personality. Russ was blessed to share the most recent years with the woman with whom he was looking forward to sharing the rest of his life with before his bright light was extinguished much too soon.
The year 1961 was a year unlike any other in American history as John F. Kennedy was just settling into his presidency, John Glenn orbited the earth three times in a space capsule, becoming the first American in orbit, and the commitment of the United States in Vietnam deepened as troop strength was increased to 8,000 men. Amidst the events in the world around them, Robert and Dolores (Lancaster) Maclam were thrilled with the birth of their son, Russell Arthur, on January 24th. Russell was born in Muskegon, Michigan, as the youngest of five children in his family including older siblings Robert, Jr., Denise, Debra, and Linda. His father worked as a tool and die maker while his mother was a homemaker. Russ was raised on the north side of Muskegon in the River Road area where he enjoyed his childhood playing with neighborhood kids and riding his bike. Russ also learned to love hunting and fishing as a young boy, and shared a close relationship with his mother as the youngest child in his family. His room was in the basement where he enjoyed having the whole space to himself.
For his formal education, Russ attended Reeths-Puffer Schools where he wrestled during both junior high and high school, although trouble with his knees left him unable to play football. Russ was always a big boy, which naturally led to his nickname, Big Russ. It was also from his earliest years that Russ became known as a kind-hearted person who was liked by all who knew him. He was also the protector of his sisters, although his mere size could calm most any situation before it escalated into something more. Not surprisingly, Russ often made friends with those in question before things got out of hand as well. He additionally enjoyed socializing with his large extended family.
After graduating from high school, Russ worked a few different jobs before moving to Louisiana to work in the oil fields and even on offshore rigs. Several friends and step-brothers followed him to Louisiana also. Big Russ truly enjoyed working there and had a great time, too. After a few years, he returned to Muskegon where he held down a variety of jobs including at Howmet, Johnson Technology, and also as a bouncer at several area bars. Most recently, Russ enjoyed his work as an appliance salesman at Quality Appliance Company in Muskegon.
Over the years, Russ had several relationships, which lasted several years. Although they would eventually go their separate ways, they never ended on a sour note, and the couple usually remained friends. One such relationship was Russ’s relationship with Dena Heethuis after he returned from Louisiana. Together they were blessed with their son, Jacob, in 1987. Shortly after that relationship ended, Russ entered into a relationship with Aimee Johnson with whom he shared an apartment above the Calico Cat in Grand Haven. He then developed a relationship with Cathy Jones. Russ helped her raise her sons, Gary and Justin, with whom he shared a close relationship. When these boys had children of their own, Russ considered them to be his very own grandchildren. Then in 2007, Russ met a gal named Carolyn Miller at Pat’s Roadhouse, a local bar. It wasn’t long before they fell in love and were living together in Roosevelt Park.
Much of what Big Russ enjoyed doing in life was centered on having fun with others. His vibrant personality and warm heart easily attracted others to him. He had many friends and would get in the car to go visit people, often picking up more friends along the way. Russ also liked visiting the local casinos as often as he was able.
Recently, Russ suffered with some health issues regarding his heart. Although his health was looking to be headed in the right direction, he unfortunately suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep just a short time later.
With his endless heart and his adventurous spirit, Russell Maclam colored the world around him each and every day. He was simply known as a great guy who loved having fun and treasured his family. Big Russ worked hard throughout his lifetime no matter what he was doing or where he called home. He was outgoing and social, and although he was large in stature, it was his kind, all-encompassing heart that made him so hard to miss. Russ will be dearly missed by all who were blessed to know and love him.
Russell Arthur Maclam died Saturday, January 16, 2010. Russ’s family includes his son, Jacob Heethuis of Grand Rapids, MI; four grandchildren, Mariah, Gary Jr., Damion and Dakota Heines; brother, Robert Maclam of Rothbury; two sisters, Denise King of MO and Linda (Bob) Hartson of Montague; fiancé, Carolyn Miller of Muskegon; step-father, Joe Gundy; step-siblings, Debra Stone, Von Korstange, Joe Gundy Jr., and Lisa Wright. He also had a life long friend, Todd Ellis. He was preceded in death by his mother, Dolores, father, Robert, sister, Debra Ellis, and brothers, Jeff and Jace Gundy. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 4:00 p.m. at the American Legion in Whitehall with Pastor Ben Jansen officiating. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a favorite memory, sign the online guestbook, or make a memorial contribution to the family.