Russell “Russ” Blair, Jr., a long-time IAVM member, passed away on February 15 in Orlando, Florida.
“It is with great sadness I send the news of Russ Blair’s passing,” said Allen Johnson, CVE, executive director of Orlando Venues. “Russ hired me out of college and I worked for him for three years but with over 37 years of friendship.”
Russ was the vice president and general manager of the Tupperware Convention Center from 1976-1992, a 2,000-seat theatre with more than 60,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space. He was an Orlando resident since 1959 during which time he met his wife to be, Emma Lou Shook. The couple married October 7, 1960, and remained so for nearly 52 years until Emma’s passing on July 24, 2012.
“Russ was a true gentleman with a great sense of humor,” Johnson said. “He often said he got the job because no one else at Tupperware Corporation knew anything about the entertainment and venue management industry. Russ would also admit he didn’t know everything but would talk to other venue operators and promoters to learn. When I moved back to Orlando in 2004 we rekindled our friendship, especially when his beloved wife Emma passed away, and my family spent a lot of time with him. Hardly a week went by that my wife Suzi didn’t text, email or visit with him to make sure he was OK. We had several lunches and also had him over for a ‘special’ dinner. I learned many things from Russ including how to treat everyone whether they were the cleaning person or the promoter or the patron. He will be missed.”
The couple raised two loving daughters, Anna Blair Hanes (John) of Geneva, FL and Laura Blair Gill (Darryl) of New Smyrna Beach, FL. Russ is also survived by his two loving children Barry Steven Blair of New Smyrna Beach, FL and Veronnie Duggin (Jim) of Albuquerque, NM. His children provided them with the blessing of wonderful grandchildren; Beau Hanes, Katie Csaszar (Alex), McKenna Gill and Jennifer Blender.
Russ was born into a career U.S. Army family at Ft. Benning, GA where his father, Russell Sr. was stationed. Russ and his brother spent much of their younger years traveling the world as their dad’s various military assignments unfolded. The two boys completed their pre-college schooling in a constantly evolving series of locations, including Philadelphia, PA, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Germany.
In 1949 Russ graduated from the U.S. Army Dependents’ high school in Munich Germany. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1950 and served until 1952 at which time he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (Class of ’56) and later American International College in Springfield, MA. He began a career in broadcasting as a radio and television announcer in Springfield, MA, and Albany, NY.
In 1959 Russ relocated to Orlando, FL to resume his broadcasting career as a TV news anchor at WDBO-TV (now WKMG). In 1963 he decided on a career change and began what was to be a nearly 29 year corporate career with Tupperware Brands Corporation at the firm’s international headquarters in Kissimmee, FL beginning with the firm’s public relations department. Subsequent assignments with Tupperware were as Director of Product Development, Vice President of Special Services and finally in 1976 as VP/Director of Tupperware Convention Center until his retirement in 1992. Following retirement from Tupperware, he remained active as a marketing consultant, executive director of a charitable foundation, and beginning in April 2002 as a volunteer with the Altamonte Springs Police Department in the Records Section where he served for almost 15 years.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Dr. Russell Blair Endowment for Language Programs at the Culver Academies, 1300 Academy Rd., Culver, IN 46511 or to Redeemer Lutheran Church, 3377 Aloma Ave, Winter Park, FL 32792.
ALLEN JOHNSON | Chief Venues Officer