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Obituaries » Charlene G. Russell

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July 31, 1945 - February 4, 2024

A Celebration of Life will be held on July 14th, 2024, in Kalamazoo (time and location tba). Memorial contributions may be made to the Kazoo School- 1401 Cherry St. Kalamazoo, MI 49008.

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Charlene Georgia Russell passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, February 4th, 2024, at the age of 78. Char was born in San Diego, CA on July 31st, 1945, and grew up in Kansas City, MO and Battle Creek, MI. She lived in Rockport, Acton, and Clinton, MA for over 35 years, and moved back home to Kalamazoo in 2019. For all of her years on this earth, Char was surrounded by love: by loving parents, Bob and Rosemary, and a loving sister Kelly. She was married to David L. Ford and bore three beautiful children; Tabbie, Shannah and John. She was remarried to Richard A. Pearson and bore two more children, Katie and Shay, while step-mothering Ronnie, Betsy, Jessie and Chelsea. In a marriage union that would last until the end of her days, she and Richard raised a blended family of nine children. Char was first and foremost an incredible artist, in both creative genius and in temperament. She created and sold paintings, sculptures, furniture pieces and fabric art, and encouraged independent thinking in all her children. Char received a B.A. from WMU in Anthropology and Fine Arts, and she and Richard were founding parents of Kazoo school. After the passing of daughter Tabitha, she formed Tabitha Quilts in 1987 with Billie Gunderson, her longtime friend and artistic fellow; their joint venture later evolved into two distinct businesses that thrive to this day. Char spent decades traveling to quilt and craft shows around the country with her vibrantly colorful clothing, quilts, and fabric. Like her creative aesthetic, Char was unapologetically ‘strong flavored’: brilliant, loud, and unfiltered. She was a fierce, loyal and generous mother, wife, sister, grandma, artist and friend. She was a cancer survivor twice over, and never stopped fighting for herself and her loved ones. She reigned like a queen over her and Richard’s brood, extending care and attention to all, frequently hollering but always smiling cheerfully through the ups and downs of life. She made her boundless love, and her opinions, known to us all. She made irreverent wisecracks, and our wedding dresses and quilts. She made our home. A reader and a traveler, she cherished the legacies of the ancestors near and far and was compiling family stories until her last day. Our memories of her are all vivid and bright, and she will shine on as our champion up above. Char is survived by her husband, Richard Pearson of Kalamazoo; by her sister Kelly Russell of Kittery, ME; by her children and their spouses Ronnie Pearson & Lee Meeker, Shannah Ford Plutchak & Eric, Jess Brewer & Rodney, John Ford, Chelsea Soracco & Don, Katherine Pearson & Mamadou Bodian, Shaylen Pearson & Jonei Hernandes; by her ex-husband David Ford, a long-time friend to her and Richard; by thirteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and of course many friends and extended family members. Previously departed loved ones include her parents Robert and Rosemary Russell, and her daughters Tabitha Ford and Betsy Bradley.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Kazoo School: