Christopher Russo, 75, Highway Superintenent
Christopher Louis Russo, who was the East Hampton Town highway superintendent for 18 years and had been chief of the Amagansett Fire Department and a founder of its ambulance company, died of congestive heart failure at home in Amagansett on Jan. 31, a few days before his 76th birthday.
Mr. Russo’s family said his reputation for honesty and doing what was right helped him become East Hampton Town’s top vote-getter, wining election as highway superintendent nine times.
He had first come to the South Fork from New Jersey with his family, who summered in Amagansett. As a boy, he learned to sail at the Devon Yacht Club and to garden with his grandfather. He became a full-time resident after marrying and changing careers, leaving a position with ARA Slater, later Aramark, a firm that provided services to the hospitality industry as well as public institutions, and starting Hampton Landscaping.
As a private contractor, he specialized in snow removal, with responsibility for state and county roads as well as East Hampton Airport, and he was a speaker at an international conference on snow. Fishing replaced sailing as an avocation, along with gardening and cooking.
Tony Bullock, who was town supervisor during some of Mr. Russo’s tenure as highway superintendent, remembered him fondly when learning of his death. “Chris clearly loved the job. He could operate any piece of equipment in the yard as well as or better than any member of his team. He dreamed of heavy snow and hurricanes so he could work around the clock. He had a bumper sticker on his pickup that said ‘Think Snow.’ His tough exterior masked his core sense of generosity and kindness. The tuna will sleep a little easier, but we will miss him a lot,” Mr. Bullock said.
He was born on Feb. 5, 1942, and grew up in Upper Montclair, N.J. He attended Montclair Academy and Lakemont Academy in Glen Falls, N.Y., where, as a senior, he was honored as a Harvard Scholar. He majored in hotel administration at Cornell University.
He and Diane D. Klinger were married in 1967 and settled in Amagansett. Fishing, in Gardiner’s Bay and offshore at Montauk, often on his boat Sea Beaste, became the norm, along with weekly trips for tuna as well as clamming and oystering regardless of the weather. He continued to cultivate a large garden, giving away cucumbers and other crops, and was known for producing gourmet meals.
Bullmastiffs were an integral part of Mr. Russo’s life. He received his first dog from David Rockefeller and had a 10-month-old bullmastiff puppy at the time of his death. Memorial donations were suggested to the American Bullmastiff Association, c/o Virginia Rowland, P.O. Box 300, Templeton, Mass. 01468.
Visiting hours will be held at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, with a memorial service on Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton.
Mr. Russo is survived by his wife of 50 years and eight nieces and nephews.