Russell W. Heath
April 17, 1960 – October 27, 2019
Russ Heath died at his Martinez home with his beloved wife Kathy by his side, after a short and courageous fight with cancer.
As we began to circulate the sad news that he was no longer in pain, family, friends and co-workers (many from years ago) remembered Russ in a personal way – his kindness, empathy, and life philosophy.
Russ was born in Martinez on Easter Sunday, the third child of Jackie and Bill Heath, younger brother to sisters Robyn and Candice. He came home from the hospital with the name “Russell” as dreamed by the family’s next-door neighbor. As a young boy, Russ raised 4H animals (like his pig, Pink Floyd) and rode the family horse Mandy around Alhambra Valley. His education at elementary, junior, and high school in Martinez was interrupted by two years (1972-73) at the American School in Singapore when his dad was assigned through IBM to help computerize the country’s offshore refineries. The opportunity to revisit Singapore with his wife Kathy in 2018 brought back many fond memories. In Russ’ high school years, Jackie would know what her son had been ‘up to’ Friday night before he woke up Saturday morning.
Following a year at Diablo Valley College, Russ graduated from Sacramento State in 1984 with a Geography major and Geology minor. After a short stint taking water samples for a local company, he went to work as a Mark IV programmer for Chevron’s Exploration group in San Ramon. In November 1991, Russ traveled to Switzerland to then Geneva-based company Petroconsultants to attend their annual clients’ meeting as the technical half of the Chevron team. And there, “across a crowded room”, he met the Petroconsultants’ client liaison, Kathy, soon to become the love of his life. A long-distance romance ensued, with Russ moving to Switzerland in 1993 and a wedding back in Capitola, CA in January 1994.
Returning from Switzerland in 1995, Russ found work first at Providian. In 2002, he joined Wells Fargo Bank and worked more than 17 years in their debit card, marketing, and analytical data operations – first in San Francisco, then in Concord. Colleagues have spoken warmly of his positive attitude, programming “magic”, "calming influence", and "always taking time to explain things and answer all questions".
A love of music dominated Russ’ life. Perhaps starting with his mom Jackie’s singing, Russ played the trumpet in the Alhambra High School marching and jazz bands. In college, he began following bands like the Grateful Dead and followed in later years with Phish, String Cheese Incident, Mother Hips, Blue Turtle Seduction, Lucas Nelson, Greensky Bluegrass, and so many others. One of his great joys was attending concerts and music festivals throughout CA and around the country.
In addition to music, Russ loved the outdoors. In his younger days, he enjoyed biking, water- and downhill skiing. Later he added hiking, camping, and back-country skiing (in search of the perfect wine spot). In recent years, Russ could be found in the evenings and weekends enjoying his beloved yard, back and front, in Alhambra Valley.
Russ is survived and greatly missed by Kathy and their 4-legged ‘kids’; sisters Robyn and Candice, their extended families, Clements and Heath family relatives; Kathy’s dad John, sister Susan, brother John Jr., and their families.
In lieu of flowers and given Russ’ great love of the outdoors, his family thanks all for donations in his memory to the John Muir Land Trust, P.O. Box 31, Martinez, CA 94553.
“Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
(Grateful Dead, “Scarlet Begonias”)