Russell Arvidson passed away peacefully in hospice care in Minneapolis on January 17, 2021. He is remembered for his artistic and scientific mind; his clever and unusual sense of humor; his entertaining performances with voice, guitar, and banjo; and his generosity as a friend, partner, and father. Born and raised in suburban Chicago, Illinois, Russ moved to “the red farm” on Governor Beveridge Highway near Somonauk in 1998. There he organized an annual event called Uncle Arlo’s Fall Music Festival, which brought together friends, family, and community for a day of food and music. Russ regaled the audience with long, elaborate performances centered on the festival’s namesake. He treated everyone to all the roast pork they could eat, and offered a collection of odd vehicles for rides around the farm.
Russ was a mechanical engineer by profession, spending most of his career at Abbott Laboratories. He holds three patents for his work in research and development. Russ raised two children with Sharon McConnell in Mundelein, Illinois. He was a talented guitar and banjo player and performer who could be regularly seen at the Adler House in Libertyville, Illinois, and later at the Village Square in Sandwich, Illinois. His band “The Whinin’ Boys” never hit it big, but they had so much fun on stage. He also enjoyed sports cars (especially German ones) and raced them while in his 20s and in his 50s. After he moved to Somonauk, he and his partner Joan Stepan (Joani) enjoyed cruising the rural roads in his Mazda Miata and visiting national parks and obscure narrow-gauge railroad destinations in a motorhome dubbed “The White Whale.”
Russ battled Parkinson’s disease for years, lost Joani in mid-2019, and moved to Minneapolis later that year to get more assistance and to be near his family, including his two grandsons. He was able to watch those kids play sports and participate in theater, just as he had done for his own children. Just before the COVID quarantine, Russ got to see the real Arlo—Arlo Guthrie—in concert for the first time. Arlo could probably hear Russ singing along with every word.
In the spirit of togetherness and celebration that Russ embodied, he wished that his memorial be a gathering of family and friends over food and music, once it is safe to do so. At that time, Russ’s family and friends will spread the word.
Russ is preceded in death by his partner Joan Stepan and his parents Bengt and Irene (LaBolle) Arvidson. He is survived by his sons Adam (Kerri Jamison) and Noah (Kate); two grandsons Ethan and Mason; his sister Janice Clemens and her children Thomas and Ruth (Matt) Erion; his former wife Sharon McConnell; many cousins, nieces, and nephews; and the children of Joan Stepan, Gwen Loyd and David, and their children and spouses.