Merle Russ (1951-2022)
M.D. Russ is a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Army and a 17-year veteran of the Defense industry, working in three Fortune 100 companies and then running his own consulting practice. He is a native of Princess Anne County and has a dual-major undergraduate degree in History and Political Science from Wofford College in South Carolina, and a graduate degree in Management Science from Troy University in Alabama. Merle now owns and operates a vineyard in Loudoun County. –Bearing Drift writer bio for M.D. Russ
It is with a heavy heart that we share with our readers the loss of Bearing Drift senior contributor Merle Russ who wrote under the name of M.D. Russ. His passing came on D-Day which seems fitting for a military guy who had written a post for D-Day on June 6, 2019 (The D-Day Address Eisenhower Never Gave).
Merle had spent the past two years battling cancer during a time when the global pandemic was sweeping our country and the world. Through it all, he continued writing and participated in our Zoom election series during the summer and fall of 2020.
His pragmatic commentary on happenings of the day provided the balanced look at issues that Bearing Drift has been known for over the years. No lockstep writing here, and he unabashedly shared his views framed through the lens of someone with years of experience walking varied avenues in life – soldier, businessman, scholar, vineyard owner.
Merle was a native Virginian, born in Norfolk, who became a career Army guy. After retiring from the military as a Colonel, he began a second career as a senior executive in the defense industry and, after retiring a second time, he and his wife moved to Loudoun County where he began a third career when they established Hobby Horse Vineyard.
It was during that time that he began commenting on articles published at Bearing Drift. His sweeping knowledge of a multitude of issues caught the attention of our editors, and he eventually became one of us as a full-fledged writer, opinion maker, thought leader, and decision maker with hard-hitting, pragmatic opinion pieces. True to his military background, he had little time to suffer fools but inside there was, not exactly a marshmallow, but a kindness that oozed out around the edges, willing to share advice and assist as needed.
It was obvious the vineyard was Merle’s pride and joy. His grapes, supplied to area wineries, were used exclusively by the Winery at Bull Run for their 2019 Petit Manseng (a white wine grape variety that is grown primarily in southwest France) that won a Gold Medal in the 2021 Virginia Governor’s Cup. His study of the cultivation and harvesting of grapes along with hard work had paid off … his third career was a success. In the last weeks of his life Merle continued to be active in his vineyard, planting the last acre of grapes just days before his death.
Merle’s life will be remembered at a memorial service at Hobby Horse Vineyard, and his burial with full military honors will be at Arlington National Cemetery. It somehow seems fitting that he will be laid to rest at the nation’s military cemetery in his native Virginia soil.
Rest in peace, friend. Thank you for sharing your time to be one of the crew at Bearing Drift. Thank you for your words of wisdom and counsel. And most of all, thank you for your service to our great country. You are already missed.
“To those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.”
Obituary: Merle Darrow Russ
January 26, 1951-June 6, 2022
Col. (Ret.) Merle Darrow Russ died with his wife Ellen at his side on June 6, 2022 following a courageous battle with cancer. Merle was born in Norfolk, Virginia on January 26, 1951 as the third child of the late George Dawson Russ, Sr. and Myrl Darrow Russ. His parents moved the family from Virginia to Myrtle Beach South Carolina where Merle graduated from Myrtle Beach High School in 1969.
Merle attended Wofford College on an ROTC scholarship, graduating in 1973. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1973, where he served in the Quartermasters branch as a Supply and Logistics Officer. He was a graduate of the Army War College, Armed Forces Staff School, Logistic Executive Development Course and Infantry Officer Basic Course. Merle retired as a Colonel in 1998.
He married the love of his life, Ellen Mary Scully, in 2001. He credited his wife Ellen with helping him grow and learn, and acknowledged constantly that they were a terrific team. He helped Ellen pursue her Doctorate Degree, and was endlessly proud of her and their family.
Following his military service, Merle was a senior executive in the defense industry until he retired a second time to grow grapes for the wineries of Northern Virginia. He and Ellen moved to Loudon County, Virginia, and established Hobby Horse Vineyard at their home in Lovettsville. Never one to quit learning or do anything halfway, in preparation for this endeavor Merle took classes, studied independently, and became a source of knowledge for others about wine. The truth about Merle was that he loved knowledge and sharing it, and he mastered every endeavor he attempted.
As the owner of a relatively new vineyard, Merle’s grapes from Hobby Horse Vineyard are already acclaimed. The 2019 Winery at Bull Run Petit Manseng, made exclusively of Hobby Horse grapes, won a Gold Medal in the Virginia Governor’s Cup in 2021. In addition to growing his grapes, Merle enjoyed cooking, traveling, skiing, sailing, golfing, riding his Harley Davidson, writing political commentaries, and spending time with his family and friends.
In the last weeks of his life Merle continued to be active in his vineyard, planting the last acre of grapes just days before his death. Despite having endured treatment for multiple cancers, he maintained a good attitude and refused to be pitied. We know he is at peace now and he will be very missed.
He is predeceased by his parents as well as his older brother, George D. Russ of Socastee, SC.
In addition to his beloved wife, Ellen, Merle is survived by his oldest brother, John D. Russ II (Joanne) of Mt. Pleasant, SC, his sister Carolyn Russ Hills of Myrtle Beach, SC, and his sister-in-law, Betty Jean Russ of Socastee, SC. He is also survived by his Scully family, including his mother in-law, Carol Scully and Ellen’s siblings, Joseph Scully, Kevin Scully (Jean), Eileen Simmons (Kevin), and William Scully (Alice), of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, NJ, as well as his numerous nieces and nephews in both the Russ and Scully families.
In lieu of flowers please consider donating to Nurses House, a national fund to support nurses in need, or Harvest Kindness, a fund to support the Loudoun County wine growing and agriculture community.
Merle will receive a Catholic funeral mass and a burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date. Prior to that, his family and friends will celebrate his life at a memorial service to be held at Hobby Horse Vineyard on June 25, 2022, 2PM.
A sampling of Merle’s work at Bearing Drift….
Zoom videos featuring Merle with the Bearing Drift political panel:
-Zoom video (June 19, 2020): That’s a Wrap! Bearing Drift’s First Zoom Townhall
-Zoom video (July 3, 2020): That’s a Wrap #2! Bearing Drift’s Second Zoom Townhall with Chris Saxman
-Zoom video (Aug. 14, 2020): Today at 2:00 … Bearing Drift Townhall Panel With Chris Saxman
-Zoom video (Oct. 7, 2020): UPDATE: Chris Saxman Hosts Wednesday’s Bearing Drift Zoom Townhall
Some of the posts by Merle….
-Nov. 1, 2021: Some Thoughts on Bill Bolling’s Final Thoughts
-June 6, 2021: The D-Day Address Eisenhower Never Gave | Bearing Drift
-April 26, 2021: Derek Chauvin Is Gonna Walk
-Feb. 15, 2021: Impeachment II: Today Is the Day After Yesterday
-Feb. 10, 2021: Impeachment Has Nothing To Do With Feeling Good
-Oct. 6, 2020: Washington, We Have a Problem
-Oct. 1, 2020: The Un-Debate
-June 26, 2020: Donald Trump Is the Republican President
-April 24, 2020: President Trump Still Thinking Outside the Box
-April 17, 2020: The Phased Reopening Plan, a Blueprint for a Pandemic Rebound
-April 6, 2020: What’s Next? You Probably Aren’t Going to Like It
-April 11, 2019: The Greatest Generation: The Last Doolittle Raider Has Died
-Nov. 5, 2018: Snowy Loudoun County
-July 2, 2018: Need a New Car? Buy it Now
-April 27, 2018: A Breath of Fresh Air – Updated with Election Results
-April 6, 2018: Trump, the Troops, and the U.S.-Mexican Border
-April 5, 2018: Is Donald Trump Pro-Military? No, Not Really.
-Dec. 13, 2017: Wednesday Morning in Alabama
-Nov. 8, 2017: Russ: What Happened In Virginia? (with dozens of reader comments)