Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Russ Elwell, Coronado Lifeguard (1934-2019)


Russ Elwell, former elementary teacher and Coronado lifeguard.

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Russell Elwell passed away May 23 after a long illness. He died in a hospice in Encinitas but had lived in Coronado most of his life. Russ was born Russell Victor Elwell April 26, 1934 as the youngest of two brothers to John R and Anne Elwell. He was born at San Diego Mercy Hospital.

The Elwell Family purchased two Coronado lots on E Avenue in 1939 from the John D. Spreckels Company. They moved to a newly-built custom home in 1941 after the senior Elwell retired from the US Navy.

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Russ attended Coronado public schools and participated in various sports. He held the varsity shot put record for many years. He earned letters in football, track, and wrestling, graduating from Coronado High School in 1953.

He became a body builder with the coaching and training help of Jack Cantrell, Mister San Diego and Coronado resident. Russ continued extensive training in this field when he moved to Hawaii with former Olympic champion Tommy Kono, in 1957.

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Russ attended Brigham Young University’s Hawaii Campus, where he wrestled and attained a BS degree in education. He was runner up in the Mr. Hawaii body building contest in 1962.

He returned to Coronado in 1964 and was employed by South Bay Unified School District as an elementary school teacher. For many years he supplemented his income as a seasonal summer Coronado Beach lifeguard. He retired from both positions in 1992.

Russ was a familiar sight on Coronado Beach for decades – first as a lifeguard, and later as a resident of the Coronado Shores, but never far from the ocean he loved.

As an elementary school teacher, he often entertained his students with strongman acts in the classroom. He would wrap chains around his chest and burst out of them. Another favorite trick was to tear a thick telephone directory in half with his bare hands.

Russell Elwell is survived by his brother John Elwell of Florida. He is also survived by nieces Kim Rius, and Sarah Elwell, and nephews Kristen and Timothy Elwell.

There are no memorial services planned at this time. Friends have talked about a paddle-out but no information is currently available. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Coronado Surfing Association, P.O. Box 180054, Coronado, CA 92178, “In Memory of Russ Elwell.”



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Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call, or (619) 742-1034.