Russ Wheatley was a pillar of the public educational system of Miami Dade County from the 1960s through 1997, when he retired from his position as Associate Superintendent of Miami Dade County Schools. Russ was recognized for his leadership in educational programs for students needing special circumstances. He was the Executive Assistant for Special Programs. He received the Mayor of Miami’s Medal of Merit Award for Education in 1998. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Russ moved with his family to Miami at age 4 in 1937, and was a true “old Miamian.” He graduated from Miami Jackson High School, where, at the age of 15, he met the love of his life, Bonnie Marcine Ross. They married just after high school and she survives him after 67 years of marriage.
Russ’s favorite part of his education career was his tenure as Principal of Hialeah Miami Lakes High School in the 1970s. The united Trojan student body called that time “Camelot” with Russ as its King Arthur. He led the school to academic excellence; sports dominance; and ethnic unity. A huge fan of music and a voice major from the University of Miami, Russ believed that he initiated the concept of “stadium rock” with the songs from his favorite bands, including Queen’s “We are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You” playing at the games.
Before that, Russ was an assistant principal and teacher. He was one of the few administrators who stood with the teachers during the fabled “walk out” of 1967, which resulted in better pay for the teachers of Dade County Public Schools.
Russ attended the University of Miami, after service in the United States Army. As a young man, he worked at Frostee Freeze in Allapattah, owned by his father in law, Bill Ross. Using his music skills, he was Choir Director of Allaphattah Methodist Church, and was a frequent soloist at church services. Russ achieved a Masters Degree in Education, also at UM, and was a dedicated Hurricanes Fan, as well as a longstanding fan of the Miami Dolphins. He was a member of the Touchdown Club and a lifetime celebrant of Miami sports teams. Russ’s second home in Franklin, NC had a “Canes Country” banner flying.
In 2003, Russ & Bonnie Marcine built their retirement home in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, keeping close with their long-time Miami friends, but making new friends and neighbors, thanks to their inlaws, Sue and Corky Ross, and their much-loved new neighborhood of Osprey Cove in Turnbull Bay. Russ served as President of the Osprey Cove Neighborhood Association for many years, and worked with neighbors on local charities, providing bikes for kids and scholarships for advanced education.
Russ had more friends and loved ones than anyone can count, and influenced many lives. In addition to Bonnie Marcine, he is survived by his daughters, Jennifer Lynn Wheatley Fletcher (Jenny), Sheryl Lynn Wheatley Strott (Sherry), her husband, Peter Howard Strott, and the world’s most beloved granddaughter, Kelsey Nicole Strott.
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