Rusty & Dusty, 1964




My Mother (Patty) was born on 1-6-1931 in Pueblo Colorado. Her Mom (Ruby) was a very hardworking waitress who had three children with her first husband. Ruby's first husband Arthur died at 28 leaving Ruby to care for three small children on her own. Ruby met and married Fred who was my Mom's Dad.


Ruby was born in Fort Worth, Texas. Her family line can be traced to the 1600s in America and had strong Irish and Scotch roots before that. She moved to Colorado at the age of 16 as a Harvey Girl (a restaurant chain along the railroad) where she met and married her husband Arthur Barrett (19). They had 3 children Bill, Thelma and Jim.

In 1928, Arthur passed away. In 1930 Ruby married Fred Russell, a railroad worker, and they had my Mother in 1931. The nine years of their marriage were very hard on Ruby and Patty. Fred had a serious drinking problem and would beat Ruby. He was a very angry drunk. The Alcohol would take his life eventually (liver disease at the age of 69). Ruby tried to make a go of the marriage but could not hurt her children any more.

Fred and Ruby divorced in 1940. Fred remarried and had 4 more children. Ruby met Henry Derr a Russian immigrant whose first wife had abandoned their family for alcohol. Ruby and Henry found commonalities in their suffering past. They did not have any children together. Ruby and Henry were together until her death in 1967 (age 63). My Mom was an only child of two common parents but she had 3 half siblings (Barrett), 4 more half siblings (Russell) 3 step siblings (Derr) - for a total of 10 siblings altogether. Ruby and Henry moved to Los Angeles (Bellflower) in 1946 or so.


Fred was also a blue collar worker who worked in the train yards. The oral history of the family is that Fred's mother was of the Blackfoot Tribe. His Father was part Cherokee. I never met great-grandma Russell - I did meet great-grandpa (Aldon) and he was an interesting man he lived in a rented room in downtown Pueblo and enjoyed starting and ending each day with an Old Stogie (cigar) and a Hot Toddy (hot toddy, toddy: a mixed drink made of liquor and water with sugar and spices and served hot – usually for medicinal purposes). He lived to be 94 years old.

Aldon's wife Mahala comes from her father's line named Bare and her Mother's, Crow – these two lines trace back to living in North America before our country was a country. Many in her line lived to their 80's and 90's. The Russell line doesn't trace back very far – I believe because I do not have access to tribal records in Canada. Again oral history says they originated in French Canadian territories before the mid-1700s.


Patty went to Excelsior High in Bellflower (no longer there) where she met and fell in love forever with my Father (Pat Brannan). She was a fiery and vibrant redhead nicknamed Rusty and Dad was two years younger with the nickname Dusty. Rusty and Dusty were a very happy couple – Dusty worked 3 jobs in high school to help support his family. Once he graduated from High School, he married Rusty and a year later I came onto the scene. My Mom worked for a small newspaper company in Huntington Park and my Father worked as an outside service repairman for Sears and Roebuck.

We moved to El Monte, CA in 1954 when my Mother started working for a company called Durobilt (car transport trailer manufacturer). My Father died of a sudden illness at the age of 31 in 1964. My Mom was 3 months pregnant with my brother at the time and suffered both physically and emotionally during the pregnancy. We were so happy when Brad my brother was born and named him (Patrick “Brad” Brannan) after my Dad. Mom was devoted to the two of us and had support of Ruby and Henry for a few more years until Ruby's death. Her siblings were also a comfort. John Zeiger worked at Durobilt and married Mom in 1971 they were married until his death in 1999. Mom lived with my family from 1999 until she also passed in 2002.


I miss her. She always had a smile or a kind word for friends and strangers alike – a gift to me and this world. My birthday gift to her today is this brief tribute of her life so others may know a little more about her.

-Robin Russ