Back to Last Roll Call Home Page   

Joseph P. Russo

Company H-1

3 Oct 1938 – 8 Jun 1995

Place of Death: Point Pleasant, NJ

Interment: Cemetery,
                West Point, New York


Class Memorial Pages\H-1 Joe Russo.pdf

Joseph Paul Russo, son of Joseph and Maria (Catania) Russo, was born in the Bronx. When Joe was two and a half years old, his father died, and in 1944, Joe's mother married Henry "Hank" Judermanns, a hotel manager from Shreveport, LA, who adopted Joe without name change. Joe was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and attended elementary school at P.S. 168 in Manhattan. Joe was introduced to the profession of arms at Xavier High, a Catholic military school from which he graduated in 1956. Joe was a natural athlete who played almost all sports. Between seasons he sometimes took to the golf links, but he rarely exhibited a great affinity for academics.

Joe's gentle soul harbored a streak of daredevil. As a youngster, he broke his arm when he donned a Superman cape and leapt from the roof of his home in Queens. He was self-reliant and seemed always to have work, including making deliveries for a butcher shop and a drug store. Joe helped a great deal at church, where he especially liked to instruct children in handball, and he could always be counted on to lend a helping hand.

Joe's family had the University of Notre Dame in mind, but Joe had had a taste of the military and knew about West Point. Joe did well on a pre-qualification test, after which his stepfather introduced him to a U.S. senator who provided Joe with an appointment. Joe entered West Point in 1956.

Joe was universally liked and respected by his fellow cadets. After a while, there were few in his company who dared challenge him to a game of handball. Joe had a way with people that made you want to be chosen by him as a friend. At West Point, he took academics a bit more seriously than in high school, but after a particularly tough cow year semester, the Academic Board decided that Joe needed to sit out for a half of a year and then give it another go. Joe was reas­signed to the Class of'61.

Often using mood music ranging from classic instrumentals to trail songs, Joe studied more efficiently and maintained proficiency in all subjects. He took pride in his Sicilian ancestry and its tradi­tions of romance and wit. Practice on his comedy routines, however, sometimes came at the expense of better class preparation. Always ready with a good one-liner, Joe nurtured his keen sense of humor and carefree outlook on life. In his final year, Joe once had some fun by dispatching a plebe across Central Area to report to an upperclassman's identical twin brother, who was in on the ruse. The twin's job was to try to convince the plebe that he had just lost a foot race with an upperclassman, even after being given a huge head start.

Discarding the super hero fantasies of his youth, Joe developed a liking for sporty automobiles. A tough lesson on French-made trans­missions was learned the day Joe marched in President Kennedy's inaugural parade. One of the young ladies be­ing escorted by Joe and two of his classmates offered her father's car for transportation between the various Inaugu­ral Balls. Joe's great confidence led him to take over the wheel of the unfamiliar foreign ve­hicle to negotiate the ice, snow, and other hazardous road condi­tions. At the end of a very enjoyable evening, however, only reverse and one forward gear remained operational. Being the man of honor that he was, Joe conferred with the young lady's father the following morning and somehow managed to get everyone off the hook.

Upon graduation, Joe took his commission in the Signal Corps, serving in Germany at Frankfurt, and later at Stuttgart. With his sleek Jaguar, Joe bragged about taking real advantage of the unlim­ited speeds allowed on the autobahns. He also is reported to have gone through at least one engine on his Sunbeam Alpine. Joe next served in Utah, attaining the rank of captain. After completing a tour of duty in Viet Nam, he returned to the United States in 1968 and also returned to civilian life.

Joe came home to be close to his family and took a job perform­ing engineering and architectural work for a construction company. Joe gave great comfort to his mother when Hank passed away. A man of outdoors and action, Joe soon felt caged in by his nine-to­five office work. He much preferred his next job as a high school physical education teacher. In 1981, with a view toward increasing his income tax bracket, Joe created and began the operation of his house painting business, a place where he could set his own hours and work along with his employees as he pleased.

Although constantly in search for the ideal woman to become his wife, Joe sadly never found her. In 1992, Joe's luck really took a nosedive when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Ever sustained by his faith and trust in God throughout a tenacious battle with malignancy, this gentle soldier remained an inspiration to his mother, family members, and friends alike. Joe's course on earth reached its end at Point Pleasant, NJ. Many came for his funeral services at the Catholic Chapel and burial at West Point.

Never too old for anything, he always had fun, found humor in almost everything, and left great memories for those whose lives he touched. Joe is missed, but his spirit lives on.