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Elzia Lou Church Russell
She was preceded in death by her son William Russell of Bay City, TX, grandson Andy Russell of Moravian Falls, and Clifton Russell. Her brothers and sisters D.A. (Ruby) Church, Jr of Goldsboro, Veora (Rex) Johnson of Elkin, Leola (Donald) Kale of Statesville, Beatrice (Charlie) Hearn of Greensboro, Claude Church of Greensboro, Frank Church of Ferguson, and Carolyn (Tommy) Blackburn of Charlotte, brother-in-law Norris Blackburn, and brothers and sisters-in-laws: John Avery (Mary Bell) Russell of Elkin, Evie (Bert) Overcash of Statesville, Ola (Harold) Hudson of Kannapolis, Roy (Saddie) Russell of Wilkesboro , Clara (Jack) Armes of Kannapolis, Eva May Russell, Velcer (Mary Alice) Russell of Kannapolis, Henry (Wanda) Russell of Boomer and a number of nieces and nephews.
Her parents Dolphus Andrew and Bessie Eller Church of Ferguson, NC.
She is survived by:
Her Sisters Melvina Blackburn of Statesville and Dean (Bobby) Blackburn of Summerfield, and sisters-in-law Loretta Church of Ferguson and Catherine Church of Greensboro and many nieces and nephews.
Her children Clarence (Julie) Russell of Taylorsville, Margie Russell-Hunter of Taylorsville, Roger (Karen) Russell of Raleigh, and Susan (Robert) Lackey of Dover, NC. and daughter-in-law, Kim Russell of Houston, TX.
Grandchildren Andi (Michael) Wallis and daughter Peyton of Houston TX, Nathan (Jessica) Russell and children Mayne, Monroe, Ellison, and Crawford of Bay City Texas and Adrian Russell and Son Darian of Houston, TX. Granddaughter Sahara Russell of Taylorsville, Nick (Michele) Russell of Bessemer City, Alan (Ellen) Russell and children Ayrianna, Aidyn, and Addyson of Taylorsville, and Amber (Chris) Chapman and children Kody and Kaylee of Stony Point. Analy (Adrian) Sanchez Huesca of Matthews and children Yuliani, Jocelyn, and Leah. Isabel (Heriberto Covarrubias Huesca of Indian Trail, and children Betito and Keilly. Juan (Citlali Castrejon) Huesca of Monroe and children Alfredo Mena Castrejon, Isabella, and Layla Sofia, Tia (Nicholas) Register and son Cooper of Connelly Springs. Tristan Russell of Raleigh, NC and Natalie Russell of Anchorage, AK, Faydra (Billy Elmore) Lackey of Mt. Airy and Carson Lackey of Raleigh.
...and many more who she included at her table that she considered as her own.
We lost the matriarch of our family today. Elzia Church Russell went to be with Jesus. After decades of declining health, she said she was very, very tired. Her interminable spirit and determination were no longer able to command her body to carry on. We celebrated her 92nd birthday back in June. Yesterday, she demanded we take her to Grandfather Mountain – so we went. Today, the lord told her it was time to go – and she went.
Elzia entered this world in 1931, on the 24th day of June. Her mother, seven months pregnant, couldn’t wait on others to hook up the team and plow the field so she did it herself… Elzia was two months premature and weighed only two pounds. She survived being born at home on the farm. She was named after her grandmother. At a year old she was smaller than a newborn but ran and played. Imagine the looks our grandmother got when she sat this smaller-than-a-newborn down on the ground instead of holding her. And then imagine the start and disbelief folks got when this tiny person took off running.
For the life mom lived, that sheer force of will carried her through childhood and adult injuries and illness, and childbirth. Whether it was an axe through her foot or a butcher knife practically severing a finger, she kept it wrapped up and carried on. Regardless of their seriousness, she viewed all her physical and emotional injuries from life as minor.
Mom was the middle child of 10, she was one of the first to graduate from high school after having to repeat two years because of childhood illnesses. She walked to school through snow and ice in winter in a homemade dress and bare legs. She taught us that we needed to get our education, because your education is something that no one can take away. All of her children were well educated. We joked that she was the brightest and prettiest of the bunch – no one ever disagreed.
With practically no money, she carved a life out of this valley that we grew up in. A beautiful place with bountiful resources. Elzia used her two hands to feed her family. Walking up the road from the house to the orchard this morning past the weathered and listing greenery and abandoned orchard equipment, we don’t have mom to follow to the orchard anymore. That’s what we did so many times growing up and all the years after. Looking up the mountain with the sun highlighting the empty field where the orchard stood, my heart broke. The orchard is no more, only a few volunteer peach trees and a few gnarled and weathered trees remain. Mom outlasted it all. On top of the hill, there is still one apple tree from seed that bears fruit – a rarity. This morning it makes us think of her. After a trip to the hospital a decade ago, therapy was sitting under this tree with friends while it was in full bloom. The smell of apple blossoms was special therapy.
Elzia (pronounced L Z) was mama to us few, a friend to many, and an inspiration to everyone that took the time to talk to her. She was loved by all. As both children and adults, if we brought a friend home, mom would adopt them. The number of her adopted children is innumerable. After she adopted all of her children’s friends, she adopted her grandchildren’s friends. The adoption agency never closed. Her ability to be genuinely interested in the person she was talking to knew no bounds. The level of care that she brought to every conversation was truly remarkable.
A hummingbird has come in to taste one of mom’s flowers. Soon that flower will be spent. Its nectar gone and bright petals wilted, and seeds carried far and wide. That flower, having completed life’s journey, will be no more. So too with mama. Her life is spent; having provided shelter, beauty, nourishment, education, and sustenance to her five children - her flowers. She was determined that she could use the land on which she lived to feed her family and with only flour and sugar from the store – and that’s what she did. She grew everything we ate. The garden and fields under her care provided meal after meal. And we ate well! Hundreds of jars of green beans and tomatoes would be canned every year. Everything we didn’t eat we sold.
Later in life she became a painter, her walls at home are lined with her artwork and photographs of family. A lover of flowers, Elzia’s joy was creating. Whether it was creating a garden and watching it grow, or sewing a quilt or painting, or working her public job that she started at 56 so she would have social security. She took pride and joy at everything she did.
The beauty of her smile was brighter than any flower. The brightness of her eyes lit up every room. The vastness of her memory held all the stories of her childhood and family growing up and everything that has happened since. It was easier to ask Mom when someone's birthday was than to look it up. The strength of her hands filled the table day after day and year after year. Her creativity solved every problem as best as could be. There was a greater creativity that mom shared with us in her paintings and her flowers. She loved her flowers. The dahlias and seven-sisters rose in the front yard are anchors for our memories of her.
Recently, eating became an effort and onerous chore. Without the ability to get out and do, her battle with anxiety slowly stripped away her strength. Her bright eyes tired. Age was finally slowing her down. After numerous osteoporosis spinal fractures in years gone by, a fall that resulted in three broken ribs proved to be too much. In the hospital to get her sodium up, she asked us to take her places and take her home. And that’s what we did.
Elzia leaves us with an enduring legacy. One built from deeds and life works. She is proud of us.
Visitation is from 12:30PM – 2:30PM followed by the funeral service at 3PM Saturday September 2nd, 2023 at Mount Olive Church (210 Mount Olive Church Rd., Taylorsville, NC 28681).
Rev. Monte Mathis, Rev. Robert Duncan, Rev. Jimmy Sowers and speaker Roger Russell will be officiating.