Russell Joseph Tershy passed on 29 June 2022, marking a century that began before the Great Depression and continued into the Internet age.
Russell believed that everyone has great potential, and that circumstances, not ability, shape our trajectory in life.
He came by this belief first-hand. Born in Enid, Oklahoma, his Lebanese immigrant family lost their general store in the Dust Bowl catastrophe and fled to California in a Model-T Ford. They turned to migrant farm work, and their fortunes turned when a kind landlord rented them a plot of land and a chicken barn for next to nothing. The family lived in the barn and grew fruit on the land. Russell began selling produce door-to-door, but by age 15, he was driving truckloads of fruit hundreds of miles south, negotiating deals with Los Angeles buyers on his own.
Russell was the first in his family to attend college. When the US entered World War II, he left his studies at Sacramento City College to join the Army. He served in the Philippines, patrolling dangerous territory as a radio operator. In the war’s final days, he was on a ship bound for the invasion of Japan and was among the first to land in Tokyo after Japanese surrender.
After the war, Russell focused on a secure financial footing for the family, running profitable residence hotels in San Francisco with his father. With that accomplished, and inspired by his deep Catholic faith and memory of the kind landlord, he gave the hotel to his family and joined the Young Christian Workers organizing unions for $6,000/ year.
He considered the priesthood, but then met his wife-to-be, Ellie Marie Sheridan. After their son Bernie was born, Russ joined the newly-formed Peace Corps as Bolivia Deputy Director. The new family lived in Bolivia for four years until a coup forced out the Peace Corps.
The GI Bill and Stanford’s generous re-admission policy helped Russ complete college after a 20-year pause. When his son Bill was born, he decided to fight poverty in the US, and co-founded the Center for Employment Training (CET). CET’s first office was an outbuilding behind Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which he shared with Cesar Chavez and the young United Farm Workers movement.
CET was proven the most effective job training model in the US. It was replicated nationally, directly lifting 200,000 families out of poverty. Its model became best practice around the world.
After retiring from CET, Russ and his family started the Montessori Community School.
Russell passed surrounded by family and friends at the home he shared with his wife Ellie.
He is survived by his wife Ellie, their son Bernie, Bernie's wife, Erika Zavaleta, and children Raven, Finn, Russell & Navia Tershy; and his son Bill and Bill's wife, Regina Tershy, and their children and grandchild.
Rosary Friday 15 July, 7pm, family home-? 831-246-3463? for directions?
Funeral Mass 16 July, 1030am, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 435 Monterey Ave, Capitola, CA 95010
Followed by memorial celebration family home- 831-246-3463? for directions
Burial 18 July, 11am, Central Coast Vets Cemetery, 2900 Parker Flats Cut Off Rd, Seaside, CA 93955