Dr. Preston Russell passed away Monday evening in Atlanta. He was 79. He leaves behind a daughter, Lindsay, a son, Alex, and five grandchildren between them. But most of all, Dr. Russell leaves behind an astounding intellectual and artistic legacy. He was a true Renaissance man.
Not only was Preston a pathologist who practiced at Savannah’s Memorial Medical Center for 27 years, he was an established painter. Self-taught, his paintings captured glimpses of his beloved Savannah and the surrounding area, all highlighted in the book “The Low Country: From Savannah to Charleston”. His work has been displayed in Paris, at Savannah’s Telfair Museum and now hangs permanently in the homes of countless low country residents.
Preston was also a passionate historian and writer. Driven by a voracious curiosity, he published countless articles and papers as well as three books. “Lights of Madness”, a biography of Joan of Arc. “American Triumph, French Tragedy” (published at age 78) on George Washington and Marquis De Lafayette’s unique relationship. And “Savannah: A History of Her People since 1733” on the city’s rich history, which he co-wrote with his late wife Barbara Hines.
Combining his love of art and history, Preston was also an award-winning creator of historical miniatures, culminating in a massive diorama of The Battle of Savannah which is on permanent display at The Savannah Visitor Center.
Preston was a real man about town and rarely missed a get together of any kind. He was always in search of lively conversation and debate, finding them at The Learning Center, The Oglethorpe Club, The Cosmos Club, First Presbyterian, St. Johns and the esteemed Gordon Wood Society.
Preston’s sense of humor and joie de vivre lit up every room he was in. He was a hopeless Francophile and lifelong member of the Society of Cincinnati. He was a Revolutionary War re-enactor. He was a talented athlete. He was a hardcore Steve Martin fan. He lived for music. He read everything. He treasured movies. He hated leaving parties. And he loved food. Man did he love food. Above all, he loved life. And there are few people who lived it with as much gusto as he did. This world, and Savannah in particular, will be a little less magical without him.
Private services will be held for him this Saturday.
In lieu of flowers, friends can make donations to The Learning Center.
I have not seen Preston in many years but I remember him so well from the time we both practiced at Memorial. Who wouldn’t? You will never find a more friendly, warm person. Not only was he a wonderful pathologist but it was just fun to talk with him. He always had a story and had so much local knowledge it was incredible. Preston will be missed by many. Please accept my deepest condolences in your loss.
- David Weems, Savannah , Ga
We have known Preston for several decades. He was always a joy to be around. The epitome of a "Southern Gentleman" he always knew what to say at the right time. We will miss his wit, charm and intellect.
- James and Virginia White, Savannah, GA
I was so sorry to learn that Preston had passed away. Our fathers were first cousins. I had not seen him in many years, but remember the fun times we had as children at my grandfathers home.
- Judy Dilday Meyer, Elizabethtown, Ky.
We have lost a true Renaissance man. There was nothing he didn’t love. He will be missed. His persona was rare.
- Joan Harwood, Savannah, Ga
So sorry for your loss! I worked with Dr. Russell for all of the twenty seven years he worked with Memorial!. Many good times were had in our Laboratory as well as off Campus celebrations. I cherish knowing him and proud to own a painting by him! He was a character! Loved him!
- Brenda Sprinkle (Cantrell), Savannah, Ga.
Preston was an incredible individual on so many levels, and he will truly be missed by our community. We had the wonderful pleasure of hosting him at a variety of our services at Mickve Israel during the past years, and he was a true mensch. We will miss him not only because of all of his accomplishments, but even more so because of his kind and generous nature. He was one of a kind, and we send our deepest condolences to his entire family.
- Rabbi Robert W Haas, Savannah, GA
Lindsey and Alex, I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am to hear about your Dad. Thinking about your Dad brings up a lot of colorful memories from my childhood and my adulthood. I remember spending time at your family house as a youngster running and dancing around your Dad's historical figurines and handmade scenes or dioramas. I did not know, at that time, what a talent he was. You probably did not know, but your Dad used to come and present local history to the residents where I work. Some of the residents still remember him and it has been, maybe three years since he was at my work. Just wanted you all to know I am thinking about you both and wishing you all the best. Celia
- Celia H. Dunn, Savannah , Georgia
We've lost a giant of a man.
- Gale & Gene Cartledge, Savannah, GA
Condolences to Preston’s family and friends — we’ll all miss him.
- Matt Prickett and Jane Griffin, Alexandria , VA
I’m so sorry to hear of Dr. Russell’s passing. He truly was a Renaissance man and a dear friend to my father, Bill Ottinger. I have one of his paintings in my home and I will always think of him when I see it! Your family is in my prayers.
- Kriste Sanders, Savannah , Ga
It's a privilege to have known this man of loving wit and earthy gravitas.
- Lance Levens, Savannah, GA
While we did not know Dr Russell personally, a friend shared his passing with us. Certainly sounds as he was a wonderful man! As fellow re-enactors of the AWI, we can say he will definitely by the re-nacting community. Our deepest Sympathies to Dr Russell's family, the City of Savanah and to all of the communities he faithfully served. Peace, Don & Kathy Scott & family ❤️
- Don & Kathy Scott & family, Harrisville, NH
I will always feel priviledged that I got to know Preston at the Learning Center. He was a great contributor and had a delightful sense of humor. I will keep his memory in my heart Marian Owens
- Marian Owens, Townsend, Georgia
I shared many classes with Preston at the SCI Learning Center and was privileged to attend many of those he generously taught himself. He enlivened every group he was a part of with his insightful comments and thoughtful questions. Gusto and magic are perfect descriptors of this dear man who was gifted with so much talent and curiosity.
- Ann Fenstermacher, Savannah, GA
Dear Lindsey and Alex, Just last night we learned of your father’s death. We are heartbroken. My daughter, Preston Cory, is going to Savannah today and wanted to see him. We couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t reach him and then I found his obituary. We met your father, who we called “Big Preston,” and Barbara on a W&L trip to Greece and Turkey, in 1999, when our daughters were six and eight years old. On that trip, little Preston and big Preston fell in love. We became fast friends and we have treasured our friendship ever since. We knew the two of you, and your families, through your father, who obviously adored you. As with everyone who had the joy of knowing him, your father loomed large in our family’s life. We loved him very much and we will sorely miss him. If you’d feel comfortable doing so, please call, text or email me. With love to you and your children, Lee Cory 502-417-6952 Lcory31@gmail.com
- Lee Cory, Louisville , KY
Dear Lindsay & Alex I am so sorry to learn at such a late date of your father’s passing. Between COVID and spending a great deal of time in Atlanta I was unaware of your loss. There is little that I can add to your narrative of your father’s life. He was a remarkable man, good friend, lover of life and tireless pursuit of knowledge. You are correct, the world will be less magical for his loss.
- Steve Green, Savannah, Georgia
Services under the direction of:
Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel
- A Private Service Will Be Held