In Memory

Russ DeVerniero

Russ DeVerniero

Let the memory of Russell be with us forever.

Russell K. DeVerniero, age 69, passed away on January 23, 2019 in Mount Vernon, WA after a short and brave battle with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a consequence of his service related exposure to Agent Orange.  Russ was born in Billings, MT on April 3rd, 1949 to Emmanuel (Dee) and Lois DeVerniero. He grew up in Billings surrounded by his cousins Deedie, Linda, Jim and Paul. He was, as he said, the official sauce taster for his Uncle Jim’s restaurant (Jimmy’s Pizzeria) which was right across the street from Senior High. When he was 12 years old he was adopted into the Woodenlegs family of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. This was a great honor and a lifelong influence in his artwork, music and spiritual life.

Russ graduated from Billings Senior High in 1967 and proudly served in the United States Marine Corps. He was part of one the finest fighting groups in Vietnam the 3rd Marine Division, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, G (Golf) Company- Hell in a Helmet. Upon his return from Vietnam he married his first wife Cynthia Klimper (Hein) they would have 3 children Cathy, Tina and John.  After his marriage, he was sent to Panama to "Guard the canal" from March of 1969 to November of 1970.  After Panama, he and his family moved to San Diego where he served as a Marine Drill Instructor until June of 1971.

After his discharge from active duty in 1971, he was a reservist until 1986. He moved back to Montana and became a Deputy Sheriff for Yellowstone County. There he would start up the first K9 unit for the county which he was passionate about.

The horrors of the war never really left him and in 1979 he felt the need to leave the Sheriff’s office and pursue a gentler calling - his true passion of art. He obtained his degree in Fine Arts from Eastern Montana College (MSU-B) with the help of the GI Bill and became a full-time artist. As an artist he was commissioned to do a Montana Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be displayed at the VA center in Billings. His inspiration for the piece came from the loss of his best friend Mike Padilla at the Battle of Bridge 28 in 1968. He tried a variety of different mediums and was very good at all of them. His precision and detail in his work was phenomenal. He had a driving creative spirit that would not quit, and could not be contained in one medium or style. He was continually in motion, developing and refining his skills and following the inspirations of his soul. His art was displayed at the Montana State Fair in Billings and at galleries in Kirkland, WA and Coeur d’Alene, ID. He has a permanent display at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.

In 1986 he moved to Seattle to work for the Pacific Science Center and then did various jobs in the Seattle area, working at Aldus Corporation developing software interfaces for Artists in the PageMaker program.  From there he moved on to Microsoft where he tested and assisted in the development a software application called Picture-it, that integrated pictures and the ability to draw on them on the PC platform. In Seattle Russ would meet the woman who would become instrumental in his life, Donna. They married on January 22, 1994 living in the Seattle area until 2002 when they moved to Coeur d’Alene, ID. After settling in Coeur d’Alene Russ started to explore more mediums with his art. Here he created some amazing wood carvings, other mixed media artwork and original music compositions. He made many lifelong friends in Coeur d’ Alene and he and Donna enjoyed a rich social life.

Russ was able to spend the last few years of his life traveling with Donna in their RV exploring the United States and really enjoying the Yuma area during the winter. In the spring of 2018 he and Donna travelled to the Washington DC area for a Marine Corp Reunion honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Bridge 28, where many of his brothers in arms lost their lives. The remaining survivors gathered for activities, events and camaraderie. They toured the USMC Museum, the Vietnam Memorial Wall and many other sites of the area.

With Donna by his side Russ had become the best version of himself and it showed. When he developed his illness, her strength helped him to keep moving forward with a contagious positive spirit. Donna was his rock and she stayed by his side until his last moments.

He always loved spending time with his children and grandchildren when they could get together. He loved to cook and made the most amazing breakfast you would ever have. He was a very loving and giving man who would do anything for his friends and family.

Russ is survived by his beloved wife Donna, daughters Cathy (John) Swan, Tina (Tim) Meyer and son John (Belinda) DeVerniero. 9 grandchildren Samantha (Tim) Downey, Amanda DeVerniero, Jacob (Tiara) Swan, Natasha Andreozzi, Victoria DeVerniero, Nic Meyer, Jenna Meyer, Lucca DeVerniero and Serafina DeVerniero and 3 great grandchildren Theo, Cullen and Genesis. He was preceded in death by his parents Emmanuel and Lois DeVerniero and grandson Rocco DeVerniero.

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02/25/19 10:59 AM #1    

Dona Schlenker (Cranston)

I just went back and reread Russ' comments prior to our reunion about his relationship with Mike Padilla and that we was with him the day he died in Vietnam.  I am so glad that Russ was able to go back to DC in the spring and meet up with his buddies from those days.  When I think of Russ, I remember him at the reunion and his big hat and bolo tie.  And how he danced the night away!   Take some time to view his gallery on the link Connie Dye left.  Not only amazing art work, but also great pictures of Russ growing up.  It is a treasure.  I did read in his Billings obit that there will be a celebration of his life in Billings in June.  It would be great if there could be a big turnout of his classmates to celebrate that life.  I do think of him reuniting with Mike P. in heaven and that truly had to be a celebration!    Rest in Peace, Russ and thank you for your service to our country and to Yellowstone County.

02/26/19 04:50 PM #2    

Karen Olson (Mallory)


I did not know Russ DeVerniero. With such a large class, Russ was one of many with whom I could not place the name with a face. At our 50th Reunion, he stood out with his cowboy hat and bolo tie. I did not recognize him and did not approach him to check out his name tag. After reading a post by Sherry Cox in which she spoke of their fabulous time on the dance floor performing the Western swing, I read about Russ on our website. At that time, I learned that he and his wife lived in Coeur d'Alene. My intent was to contact him to ask if he would like to meet up here in CdA. I never did. Lesson learned. A reading his obituary Sunday, I searched for information on his gallery. Check out Sea Bear Studio. Russ posted a YouTube video showing his art work. Interesting music accompanies the video. My condolences to all those whose lives intertwined with Russ.



03/03/19 02:14 PM #3    

Albert Nelson

RIP Marine.  Sorry for your passing.  I hope you and Mike are together again and that you meet me at Fiddler's Green when my time comes.

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