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Russell Bert "RB" Kahler

Obituary for Russell Bert "RB" Kahler

January 16, 1932 - May 6, 2020
Seven Hills, Ohio | Age 88

Loving Husband, Father, Grandfather and Friend


Russell Bert Kahler

Born January 16, 1932- Died May 6, 2020

Russell Bert ('RB') entered this world in Youngstown, Ohio on a cold January day in the midst of a worldwide depression. He was wanted so desperately by his mother, Eleanor Jane Pennell-Kahler, that she purchased a portrait of a baby in 1929 and prayed every night that if God would grant her a child, he would look just like that baby. When RB finally arrived, he was born so prematurely that he was not expected to live. Eleanor, a trained nurse, took her tiny long awaited promise home and RB's father, Russell John Kahler, built a home-made incubator to keep him alive. He was their miracle, who did, after all, look exactly like the picture that they had prayed over many times. This tiny baby would go on to live 88 years.

As told by Eleanor Jane, RB never ever needed a scolding, because he was an obedient, loving and delightful child. The only exception was when he filled the secret pouch of his Teddy Bear with a chocolate bar he wanted to save for the morning, and it melted all over the bed. This golden haired boy filled his days with hand me down toys from his cousins, a tin lion, a homemade sailboat and little lead cars. He read about Patsy Ann in picture books and played with his cousin, Shirley on the banks of Mill Creek, their toes tickled by watercress as they waded through. Shirley was closest thing to a sister he ever had. About 60 years later, RB sat at Shirley's funeral dismayed that when called upon, no one wanted to speak about her life. He marched determined up the aisle of the church and delivered the most unplanned, heartfelt tribute anyone had ever heard. Russ wanted people to be appreciated.

As a child, he looked to the sky out of the windows of various trailers in various trailer parks where they lived as nomads. RB was fascinated by the formation of planes leaving for WWII. He took care of his mother and helped manage their meager rations, while his father moved around and looked for work. He said that his dad had given him this responsibility, and thus began his career of taking care of people. One day, RB's own childhood dream came true when he was sent to attend military grade-school at Morgan Park Academy in Chicago. It was here that he fell off a metal bunk bed and obtained a scar he would later exaggerate into a 'war wound' to his children.

Russ was attending Youngstown State University when he was drafted into the Army during the Korean conflict. At the height of the sweat and grit of boot camp, he looked up to see an Army marching band go by. He stole away in a quiet moment and asked the bandleader why, in a band filled with such pomp and circumstance, there was the absence of the 'oomp-pa-pa' drama that only a Tuba could provide. The bandleader said, well, they didn't know anyone who could play the Tuba. It was then that RB was immediately transferred into the Army marching band, where he served for 2 years to inspire the troops towards hope through music. He always said the Tuba may have saved his life. The Kahler girls often tell of loud military marching music blasted through the house to waken the family on Sundays for church.

The 50's found Russ steadily establishing a career at General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) where he quickly rose through the ranks due to his quick wit, Dale Carnegie ability to 'win friends and influence people', and his tireless work ethic. We hear tell from people around at that time, that all the girls wanted to be his date, and he was pleased to cooperate. At this point he had a boat, and a car, and a house, plus he looked a lot like Harry Connick Jr. His parents grew so weary meeting new girlfriends that they were barely able to conceal their yawns as each hopeful future Mrs. Kahler was introduced. Then entered one Miss Anita Earlene, Cotton Carnival Court beauty queen and Memphis southern belle extraordinaire. Russ never looked at anyone else again. In March 1960, he asked Anita's friend to convince her to attend a party at his house. Anita had no interest, but she had southern manners, so she obliged. Somehow on that night, as Russ played songs of love on his ukulele under the moon, he convinced her that they should go on a date. She reluctantly agreed. Russ and Anita were married on November 12, 1960.

The Kahler children came in quick succession. Cindy in October 1961, Tami in July 1963 and Lori in October 1964. Russ and Anita moved to Parma into their dream of a split level with woods in the back and a field with a pond on the side. There was always the feeling, as a child of the depression commonly feels, that his children should want for nothing, so that was the childhood that he created for them. He once told his son-in-law, Hank, he would never regret a dollar spent on his family. Holidays were especially extravagant expressions of his love. He anticipated capturing the joyful surprise of Christmas and Easter morning so much that he tied tin cans full of rocks to his children's doors to prevent them from sneaking out of their bedrooms. Every holiday detail was managed from the creation of 3 separate Christmas trees, so that there would be one on each level, down to the displays of Pooh Bear and friends in the front window and yards and yards of lights under cotton 'snow'. While Anita made sure the Kahler girls Holiday outfits were perfectly coordinated, Russ made sure there was no decorating detail left undone. Presents were not just presents. They came with riddles and rhyming notes and were opened amidst squealing laughter trying to guess the presents before they were opened. When it snowed, Russ was the first to help build an igloo or a snowman. He turned an ordinary field pond into a magical ice skating rink and taught his children to skate. He loved decorating for Christmas so much, that his first major stroke occurred, while against doctor's orders, while he was hanging Christmas lights outside.

Throughout the 60's and 70's family vacations were epic, often, and well planned. While other campers showed up at the campground to set up on Memorial Day weekend, Russ preferred to drive out solo and set up the night before, nabbing the best electrical outlets for his 3 daughters' curling irons. Drives to Memphis in the summers were peppered with adventure; as Russ loved to stop at motels with swimming pools so he may spend hours regaling his daughters of dramatic, made up stories of the other guest swimmers' lives. Labor Day weekends were spent at Lakeside, a beloved place he returned his family to year after year on a 3-generation homing journey. At the end of each summer, when the monarch butterflies came to the field every year, he was the first to help capture and release them with the delight of a child. Even mundane tasks were turned into big events, like Russ dressing up as 'Sally Snodgrass' the babysitter, who played endless games with a flashlight to get the 3 Kahler girls to come out of the bathtub. Russ had a talent for turning ordinary days into vacation days.

In 1989 when Russ retired from GMAC, he was only 55 years old. This gave him the opportunity to explore other ventures as a Lifetouch school picture taker, a Cuyahoga County Fair Clydesdale Horse Barn Manager, a Cleveland Zoo Docent/tram driver, and 15 years driving a van for Southwest Hospital to pick up patients unable to drive to appointments. He always said his greatest desire was to help people. He played the disciple, Andrew, for years in a 'Last Supper' tableau, sang with "The Sunshine Boys" and enjoyed making people laugh as part of the "Wise Guys". Russ was a leader of the "Logos" program for kids at Ridgewood United Methodist Church where he entertained youth as a Table Parent for many years. He always loved making people laugh.
Throughout the empty nest years, Russ and Anita were able to see and enjoy the world together. Hawaii, Oberammergau, Italy, England, Canada, the Mediterranean, Emerald Isle and Disney World. Of his later years, one of his most meaningful activities was taking an Honor Flight in Washington DC. He loved each grandchild so uniquely, as each of them came to the world, as if they were the only one. When his circle of friends he had held close for 40 years began to age, they called themselves the "Curmudgeon Brothers" and ate breakfast together and watched war movies. He loved calling up anyone and everyone on their birthday and letting the player piano play "Happy Birthday" while he sang. He always made birthdays special. The music he left us echoes in our ears.

Russ showed up for people. He was our biggest cheerleader. He loved being there for every concert, every graduation, every game, every birthday, every performance, and every moment was made better by his ability to celebrate the essence of each person. He told us we looked pretty when we didn't, told us he was proud, and told us we could make it happen. If he didn't really believe it, he made us believe. We will miss his encouragement, but we will always hold it in our hearts. On what would be his last Thanksgiving, as each family member shared what was their favorite thing about 2019, he said that he was able to give Cindy a place to live while her home was being built. And that tells you most of what you need to know about him. Russ simply lived his life for others.
Sometime around 2016, a series of strokes began to take more and more of his functioning ability. Russ developed vascular dementia which confused his logic and reasoning ability, but he always knew his family and friends. For 2 years he tried to bravely swallow pureed food without much of a swallowing mechanism. The final stroke took away the ability to do even that. The last two weeks of his life were filled with love, and grandchildren, and music, and Anita by his side, and his kids filling his thoughts with memories and telling stories of what heaven will be like. He left us just like he lived his life. Quietly, in the background of activities of daily living. He always knew the power of holding back and quietly considering a situation. So, he chose that time to go. His love for us, his compassion didn't need words to be expressed anymore. His last breath was gentle, imperceptible, like the way his wisdom read every situation and knew how to intervene. Well played in death, well played in life. His extravagant love, softly given one last time by a kindhearted man with an unceasing ability to make those around him feel good. And this is his legacy, left to us all.

Russell B. Kahler, of Seven Hills, Ohio, passed away peacefully on May 6th at 8:30pm surrounded by his family. Russell is survived by his wife, Anita E. Kahler and 3 daughters, Cynthia Kahler of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, Tami Kahler Floyd (Hank) of Redmond, Washington and Lori Kahler Fodo (Ron) of Medina, Ohio and 7 grandchildren, Colin Floyd, Elizabeth Fodo, Matthew Fodo, Hallie Floyd, Andrew Fodo, Madeline Floyd and Alyssa Floyd.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Greater Cleveland Youth for Christ, who cares for over 4,000 kids in hard places by pouring the love of Christ into their lives, as Russell did for all who knew him.

Click to donate here: and choose 'Russ Kahler Memorial' as a drop down choice
Checks may be mailed to: Greater Cleveland Youth for Christ, 709 Brookpark Rd., LL1 Cleveland, OH 44109,
(Note: Russ Kahler Memorial on the check memo.)

Or, donations would also be appreciated here, at Russ' church of 45 years. (Note 'Russ Kahler Memorial' on check memo)

Ridgewood United Methodist Church
6330 Ridge Road
Parma, OH 44129

A Celebration of Life service and luncheon will be held in the Fall at Ridgewood United Methodist Church in Parma, Ohio with interment at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery with full Military Honors at that time. 'Save the Date' notification will be forthcoming on Busch website. 440-842-7800

Celebration of Life will be announced on our website.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • Ridgewood United Methodist Church
    6330 Ridge Rd
    Parma, OH 44129

Arrangements By

Busch Funeral and Crematory Services

7501 Ridge Road
Parma, OH 44129
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