Russell Pawlak passed away last night from cancer, at 59. Russell is the major reason that I ever got involved with the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation.
I attended the first public tour in 2003, with my fathers photos in hand, and stood at the gate trying to see in the lobby. Russell said to me, “don’t worry, we’ll go inside”. I’d like to say that I stayed on the tour and listened with awe to every word Russell said but I admit I did not, and once inside I separated myself from the tour (to be quickly followed by Brian who saw me upstairs ha) to see what else there was to see besides the concourse. Russell didn’t have a lot of control over that first group, and the tour went much longer than he probably anticipated, especially when the owner of Duch’s decided to take everyone up to the 4th floor roof.
At some point during the tour I showed Russell the photos and he wanted copies of them. We made arrangements for that, and then I attended every public tour that year…and the public meeting at Mickey’s…and I volunteered to do the website…and I flew to Chicago with Leighanne to find the clock…and asked the Buffalo Science Museum to find the original buffalo in their storage rooms…and Russell asked me to be a board member in February 2004.
Russell’s passion was infectious. Anyone who met him understands. As good as our tour guides may be now, it’s not quite like how Russell was. He was inspiring and he really made you believe that this huge insurmountable task was completely do-able. If someone else had been tour guide that day, I’d never have been part of the CTRC for the last 6 years. He may have made me want to quit a number of times, but in the end, he made me want to stay even more. I sincerely wish he could be around to see what happens.