Celebration of Life for Fernie Russell
Fernie (Fern) Camacho was born September 26, 1926, in the parish of Saint John, on the Island of Antigua to the late Lydia Gould, better known as ‘Mama,’ and Clyde Camacho. As Fern grew into young adulthood, she was also known and affectionately called 'Dada' by her siblings, other family and friends. The second eldest of seven children, including Morbrie, Clarence (Pete), Eddie, Leila, Violet (Queen), and Wesley, Fern shared a love and support for her family that would fuel generations. Clarence and Fern were also siblings to Erma and George, who shared the same father. Driven to create greater opportunities for her family, Fern was the first of Lydia’s family to leave Antigua in 1947 for life in America, sponsored by Cousin Ivy and Irving Gilkes.
Alphonso Russell (Al), Fern’s husband, served in the Air Force following high school graduation. While he was on Furlough, Al and Fern met after being stationed in Alaska for three years. Once Al was discharged from the Air Force, the couple married in 1950. In 1954, Fern had Lynda, the first to be born in America. Fern’s first born, Theel Gore (Junie), born in Antigua, later came to America in 1961. By 1963, all of Lydia’s family left Antigua. During this era of mass global emigration, Fernie sponsored nearly half of her siblings and her mother coming to the United States.
Fern’s life was rich with energy, beauty, and strength. In addition to her work as a talented seamstress, she began a second career as a group home counselor at St. Cabrini’s Home in New York. She was devoted to God and her family, a frequent world traveler, and had a powerhouse of a voice. Fern started attending Pentecostal church at an early age with her grandmother, Brinnette, who was affectionally called “Gran” by all her grandchildren. Her love of God was constant throughout her life, as she sought out church and community in Antigua, singing hymns with Erma and Queen, even when she moved to New York and Maryland.
Fernie loved to travel. From the early 60's, she began her travel adventures with her sister-in-law, Joyce, and friends on a trip across the US from NY to California! They were regular travel partners, often joined by Queen, Leila, Eddie, and other family and friends. Fernie's many travel adventures included most of the Caribbean, the UK, Europe (including France, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland), Egypt, Israel, and Alaska. Planes, trains, automobiles, and cruises were all modes of transportation adding to the experience of each travel adventure. She also visited family and friends for holidays and long weekends in Virginia Beach, Florida, NY, Philadelphia and Canada on numerous mini-vacations. Fernie and her sister, Erma, met up in Antigua every year around June and spent two to three months together for over ten years. At times, children, grandchildren, and other family joined them for a week or two.
In the mid-90's, with many of the original families that arrived in the 60s reaching retirement and their grown children beginning their adult lives outside of NY, several family members moved away from NY. Fern continued to reside in NY until 2002, when she moved to Maryland to live with Lynda and Dale. She loved gardening, growing flowers and vegetables and spent a lot of time cultivating her gardens. A lovely neighborhood with wonderful, friendly people, she was often outside chatting with neighbors. Fern joined St Georges Episcopal Church nearby, attending church regularly until recent years when the challenges of Alzheimer's disease prevented her from attending.
She spent her final years at an assisted living home nearby in Bowie, MD, where she received excellent individualized care for her special needs. The owners and some staff shared her Caribbean background which she enjoyed and found comforting. During her time there, she was visited by family, church members, neighbors, and friends. We are grateful to have found such a wonderful professional, loving, caring, and nurturing environment where she thrived, in light her affliction, for many years.
Fern was a loving, giving, and caring person who helped family, friends, and acquaintances alike in many aspects – establishing new lives, managing their families, discovering employment opportunities, and more. God gave Fernie many blessings and gifts that sustained her throughout her long life. Her loving, generous, kind nature touched so many people. She was a parent figure, caretaker, nurse, matriarch, advisor, mentor, and a positive influence in the lives of many. Of her many attributes, she was very well known for her culinary skills. Everybody who has ever tasted any of the food she made can attest to her exceptional abilities, simply a fabulous cook! She kept her culinary secrets to herself, making sure to share no recipes, but family and friends would come from far and wide for the experience.
Fernie is survived by her sisters, Erma and Queen, her brothers, Eddie and Wesley, two children, Lynda and Junie, along with a host of grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, and friends to treasure the blessed life she lived. Join us in celebrating the amazing life of Fernie Russell!