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Russell Dean Sprague

Russell Dean Sprague of Lansing died on January 20, 2020, at the age of 92.  He was born in Rochester, NY, to William Delos and Mary Axelby Sprague.  The family moved to Little Valley in southwestern New York in 1937.  Russ graduated from Little Valley High School in 1945.  Two days after graduation, he started basic training at Sampson Navy Base on Seneca Lake. He served on the light cruiser USS Philadelphia.  After the war, he entered Cornell University College of Agriculture, receiving an associate degree in 1948.

In 1951, Russ married Mary Doyle of Salamanca.  Together they had four daughters.  His first job was as a salesman of Ford Tractor products.  In 1953, he left the farm machinery business to work for the Equitable Life Assurance Society of Utica.  Eight years later he became the general agent for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in Binghamton.  In 1982, he became an independent agent representing many companies offering life, health and disability insurance. 

Russ was an active community volunteer.  He was a member of the Binghamton and Ithaca Rotary Clubs for over 43 years.  He served as President of the Binghamton Rotary in 1989.  He was Campaign Chairman for the United Way of Broome County in 1970.  He also served as Capital Campaign Chairman for the Good Shepard Fairview Home of Binghamton.  He was an active member of the Broome County Chamber of Commerce and a member and elder of West Presbyterian Church of Binghamton.

Russ had many hobbies.  He was a licensed pilot and owned his own airplane – a 4 seat Cessna 182.  He was an avid skier, cruising the slopes of over 50 ski areas in the US and Europe.  He enjoyed biking.  Russ moved to Ithaca in 1993 to join his new partner, Kelly Behan.  When she retired, they spent 10 years exploring the North American continent in their motorhome.  Russ’s real passion was people.  Every person he met was special to him - always acknowledged by their name and given a friendly comment, a joke or a perfumed penny.  Handwritten letters were mailed every day and there were always phone calls to be made.  His goal was to bring joy into the life of everyone he encountered each day.

Russ was predeceased by his brother, William Sprague, and his wife, Mary Doyle Sprague.  He is survived by his daughters, Joan Sprague (Endicott, NY), Jacklyn (Sprague) and Douglas Ryan (Thousand Oaks, CA), Sheila (Sprague) Pace and partner Ron Maier (Buffalo, NY) and Susan (Sprague) and John Luka (Downers Grove, IL); grandchildren, Marijke Pace Kemble, Connor Pace, Jeremy Ryan, Julia and Alex Luka; and great granddaughters, Marnie and Olive Kemble.  He is also survived by his partner, Kelly Behan, and her children, Douglas and Sohini Behan (Chapel Hill, NC) and Julia (Behan) and Peter Hadlock (South Salem, NY) and their children, Ethan Botts, Vincent Behan, Clayton, Spencer and Quincy Hadlock.

The family sends a heartfelt thank you to the staff at Groton Nursing Home for their loving and wonderful care to Russ during his time with them.  A memorial service in Binghamton, NY, will be announced at a later date.

To plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Russell Sprague, please visit our flower store.


My name is Debbie Owens-Burch. My dad, Larry Owens, met Russell when he would go for coffee at Wegmans. Turns out they both served on the USS Philadelphia, (my dad was on it for 4 years). Russell said no one believed him about a massive storm they encountered at sea, and my dad had the newspaper articles to back up the story so he gave Russell a copy. My father was thrilled to have someone with whom he could share stories. My dad passed away 2 years ago today so I know that nothing can help the loss your family is feeling. I'm sending love, hugs and light.

Debbie Owens-Burch Jan 23 2020 12:00 AM

I'm so grateful to have had Russ come into my life.He was just a wonderful person to be around his smile and his sense of humor.I will never forget the day someone asked me if I was related to him because I was with him 3 to 4 days a week,I said no just a friend but Russ turned to them and said yes she family .I sure do miss him .I think God for bringing him into my life and his wife Kellie.RIP my dear friend miss you now and always
Love Demaris

Demaris Crouch Jan 23 2020 12:00 AM

Russ, a joyful individual, ballroom skier, pianist. Fond memories!!!

Mary Lou Bush-Bailey Jan 22 2020 12:00 AM

Russ was a very dear friend to my parents, Jack & Anne Spring, and therefore a dear friend of the family. Russ was always happy and his charisma was infectious. Truly an inspiration to everyone he met, he must have had a bad day once in a while, but no one would know, as he always met you with a smile and genuine uplifting commentabout you.
A one in a million guy. We are so blessedto have to have known, loved, and learned from him. God Bless You Russ, don't have too much fun up there without us!!! Diane and Greg Precopio

Diane Precopio Jan 22 2020 12:00 AM

A candle was lit in memory of Russell Sprague

Baerbara Rocke Jan 22 2020 12:00 AM

Just that... Russ was a hoot! So much so we nicknamed him Dwayne, which he openly embraced. He was a party guy and brought fun whenever he visited California. RIP Dwayne.

Leslie Halpern Jan 22 2020 12:00 AM