Helping Families and Friends Honor Their Loved One

Chester Gail Russell, age 79

Chester Gail Russell, 79, of Jacksonville, passed away October 19, 2022. He was born November 15, 1942, in Little Rock to the Late Chester and Oneta Russell.

Gail is preceded in death by his parents Chester Malvern Russell and Mary Oneta Blasingame.

Survivors include his loving and devoted wife Caryol of whom he met at church in 1958; daughter Lisa (Jeff) Mennard; son Robert Dodson Russell; daughter Kandyce (Toren) Behnke-Blanco; son Larry Kyle (Julie) Behnke; grandchildren Chadrick Britton, Tyler Russell, Jakeb Brackin, Lyndsi Young, and Kylie Behnke; great-grandchild Mateo Villebrun; brother Larry (Glyneva); and personal aid and friend Bobbie.

Gail was a lifelong member of the Church of Christ. He led singing at many local churches of Christ since he was 13 and conducted many singing workshops throughout Arkansas. Gail officiated High School Basketball for 52 years including 20 years of College Basketball. He worked in the Sun Belt Conference USA, Gulf South, SCAC, and AIC. He also officiated High School Football and Fast Pitch Softball. He officiated many districts, regional and state tournaments including numerous finals.

He was a band director for 38 years including Hazen, Hampton, Pulaski Oak Grove, Sylvan Hills, and CAC. He was a charter member of the North Little Rock Community Band. He was Sports Director at the North Side YMCA for 5 years. He was an All-Star Outfielder in Senior Softball which he played until he was 75.

Visitation will be held on Tuesday, October 25, 2022, at 12:30pm with Funeral Service to follow at 1:30pm at Sylvan Hills Church of Christ. Entombment to follow at 3:00pm at Rest Hills Cemetery in Sherwood, Arkansas.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Church of Christ Children’s Homes.

Arrangements by A Natural State Funeral Service 2620 West Main Street, Jacksonville, Arkansas 72076. 501-982-3400. Online guestbook available at


  • Virginia Sappington Taylor Posted October 21, 2022 7:51 PM

    So sorry. Mr Russell taught me at Oak Grove. He was loved.

  • Sharon Comstock Posted October 21, 2022 8:55 PM

    I have such wonderful memories of being int the band at OakGrove my life was forever touched by the kindness and leadership of Mr.Russell

  • Mary Alice Chambers Posted October 21, 2022 9:38 PM

    Mr. Russell was the reason I became a band director. He taught me a great deal about music. Rest in Peace

  • Teresa Hudgens Grimsley Posted October 21, 2022 10:53 PM

    Mr. Russell had a profound influence on his band students (I was one of them) at OGHS. He really knew how to motivate kids, and literally kept us all so busy that we didn’t have time to get into any trouble, lol! Our little school was so lucky to have him!

  • Kim Lister-Banks Posted October 22, 2022 1:05 AM

    This breaks my heart, Mr Russell taught me how to play the flute when I was in the 6th grade. He is the reason I loved band. He was a special man and one of my favorite teachers, bus driver and principal Ever. I have so many fond memories of our band trips, competitions , football and basketball games where we performed. Please accept my condolences and know Mr Russell will always have a special place in my heart. Sending love and prayers for peace and comfort.

  • Debbie Brown Broyles Posted October 22, 2022 3:20 AM

    I often think of Mr. Russell. He greatly influenced my life as band director at OGHS. What a legacy he leaves.

  • Paul Herrod Posted October 22, 2022 7:40 AM

    A very good man. He will be missed

  • Rusty E. Goodnight Posted October 22, 2022 11:56 AM

    Mr. Russell convinced me to play the trombone. If you weren’t playing something right he could take your instrument and play it for you to hear. He later became Vice Principal and applied the “board of education” to my backside on numerous occasions.I attended one of his singing clinics at Mayflower Church of Christ. He was a very fair and honest man that encouraged you to do your best and that was good enough for him. May the family take great comfort in knowing that he had such a positive influence on thousands of Central AR youth and that he is now HOME where we ALL hope to be someday.

  • Tina Stewart Jaramillo Posted October 22, 2022 1:36 PM

    Mr. Russell started teaching me when I was in the 6th grade at Oak Grove elementary. I played clarinet clarinet. He was an excellent teacher. He will be missed I have great memories of him

  • Sheryl Brownhill Posted October 22, 2022 6:38 PM

    Mr Russell made such a huge impact on my life. We were all so fortunate to have him in our lives.

  • Sandra Rogers Posted October 23, 2022 12:10 AM

    Mr Russell was loved and respected by many from OGHS, but my mom truly loved him (Ruth Linton). May his family fill Gods peace and comfort during this time and days ahead.

  • Robby Russell Posted October 23, 2022 7:11 AM

    I love my dad very much he the best DAD LOVE YOU DAD

  • Jerry Hanchey Posted October 23, 2022 11:26 AM

    Gail was one of my best friends growing up in NLR during the 50s. We had some great times together during the many years from grade school through high school. We were in. the band together and often competed (both played trombones.) We often walked to and from school together and occasionally got into some mischief. Although we didn’t stay in touch much after high school, I always admired how Gail stayed active with his church, music and sports and I wish I’d seen him more later in life. I know he’s in heaven and better off now but my condolences go out to his wife and family. He was a super individual!

  • Marianne Bailey Wilcox Posted October 23, 2022 11:59 AM

    Gail was one of the good ones. We were friends for a lot of years. I admired his talents and sense of humor.

  • Blenda Glover Posted October 23, 2022 12:12 PM

    Mr.Russell was a awesome teacher and I enjoyed having him at Sylvan Hills. He taught my son Chris years later at the music store in Sherwood. And I had the pleasure of being friends with Lisa when we were in school together. My prayers are with her and all the family.

  • Dan And Donna Bartell Posted October 23, 2022 1:44 PM

    Gail was a friend from grade school through high school and helped with many reunions . Music and sports were so important to him. He was a life long friend who will be missed by many. Sympathy is sent to all his family by Donna and I. Fondly, Danny Bartell

  • Gail Chance Posted October 23, 2022 4:20 PM

    So very sorry to hear this! Praying for the family 🙏

  • Martha Cothren Posted October 23, 2022 7:29 PM

    I haven’t seen Gail in years, but always loved having him officiate on of my basketball games. He loved to rease me as I coached, and I loved to tease him right back. He was always such a gentleman, and I wish I could have seen him again. I am praying for his family.

  • Ray Harrison Posted October 23, 2022 8:59 PM

    I can’t say enough about Gail Russell the man or the band director. In the two short years that he taught me at OGHS he left me with countless fond and loving memories. I know he will be missed by his family and friends. May God bless and keep them in this their hour of grief. To be absent of the body is to be present with the Lord.

  • Elaine Lee Posted October 23, 2022 9:52 PM

    Mr Russell was my junior high band director at Sylvan’Hills. I have found memories of his instruction, humor and when some of the kids were not listening. A life well lived to be welcomed into the arms of Jesus.

  • Jim Ashley Posted October 24, 2022 11:32 AM

    I knew Gail thru the church of Christ, was his Drum Major at Oak Grove, & he got me into officiating high school basketball, which I did for 35 years. Good man….. Glad he’s now in his eternal home & no longer in pain. RIP, my friend….

  • Treasa Key Webb Posted October 24, 2022 3:49 PM

    I remember Mr.Russell from Oak Grove. So sorry for your loss. RIP

  • Janie Smothers-Howard Posted October 24, 2022 6:15 PM

    Mr. Russell you will be missed. Your encouragement has spanned so many generations. It will continue on through my children and grandchildren. Their love for music started years before they were born with the inspiration you gave me to play a flute. You could be a fun hot mess when appropriate. But you also knew how to discipline when situations called for it. Thank you for a lifetime of joy and amazing memories.

  • Wayne Haver Posted October 24, 2022 6:50 PM

    Gail was a classmate and friend at NLRHS. He will be missed by his family, friends, and students.

  • Ron Tribell Posted October 24, 2022 7:53 PM

    Great guy!

  • Robyn Rosamond Sellwood Posted October 24, 2022 10:38 PM

    Mr. Russell
    Not only my favorite teacher but many more students from oak Grove High I know feel the same…. You always made learning fun for us … I have very fond memories of you and remember after years gone by reconnected at CAC and how glad I was to see you after so many years!!!! Rest High on that mountain you’ll be sorely missed sir!

  • Melissa D Elzey Posted October 25, 2022 12:42 AM

    I was at Sylvan Hills Junior High during 1986-88, and although I was not in band, some of my good friends were and I hung out in the bandroom alot. I got to see how he interacted with the students. I could tell that he made an impact on their lives and that they loved him. My condolences to the family and friends of Gail.

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