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Legacy: A Tribute to Russ Lanoway

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Dear friends of Icelandic Roots,

One of our best and brightest genealogists has passed on suddenly at the age of 77. The entire team is shocked and saddened by the loss of our dear friend, dedicated genealogist, and teammate, Russ Lanoway. Many thousands of people have been helped and their lives touched by his volunteer genealogy volunteer work through Icelandic Roots. This post is a way of showing our respects and to honour his life.

On the weekend of the two biggest Icelandic festival‘s in Canada and the USA, Russ and his wife, Gwen, volunteered for three days, as usual, at the genealogy sessions with 6-7 other IR volunteers. Friday and Saturday the team held presentations and genealogy sessions at The Deuce of August in Mountain, ND.

On Sunday, August 4th, we were at the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli, MB during Íslendingadagurinn. After the very fun and successful weekend, seven of the IR team met for an early dinner in Gimli. Russ and Gwen returned to their Winnipeg home along with another IR genealogist and friend, Cathy Josephson, from Vopnafjörður. A few hours later, Russ suddenly passed away.

Russ is survived by his wife Gwen of 55 years, his children Carmen and Tyler, grandchildren Ava and Dryden, brother Michael (Audrey) and their children (Shane, Travis and Cory).  He is predeceased by his parents Henry and Alma.

Russell James Lanoway born in Beausejour, MB on 20 Feb 1942. He lived in Winnipeg and was stationed overseas for duty to his country. He was an active member of the 402 Squadron in Winnipeg and active with the Manitoba Game and Fish. Russ was not born Icelandic but by marrying Gwen, he became “Icelandic by Marriage” and he embraced it fully.

Russ worked nearly 35 years at MTS and then as a Telecom Consultant. He also lead the Technology team at the Pan Am Games from 1997-1999.

We know Russ not only as a valuable IR Team member and friend but as a wonderful father, grandfather, and husband. He was very proud of his family and spoke of them often during the weekly online IR team meetings. His son, Tyler, came to Gimli and to the IR Genealogy seminar. The event was held in the beautiful Lady of the Lake Theatre in The New Iceland Heritage Museum.

Russ was an important, trusted, and dedicated member of the Icelandic Roots team. We call Russ and Gwen the “dynamic duo.” Together, they worked online, in books, in the archives, in cemeteries, and performing research. They had completed their own genealogy work years ago and then began "giving back" to others through their work with the nonprofit charity, Icelandic Roots.

Russ handled many hundreds of “Cousins Across the Ocean” forms and connected these individuals to the growing IR database. He communicated with enthusiasm and knowledge by replying to those who asked questions in our team IR email inbox. Russ and Gwen traveled to various places and volunteered at IR seminars, presentations, and Genealogy Centers. For years, they had taken part in the very busy and fun August the Deuce Genealogy Center where hundreds of people are helped each day with their Icelandic genealogy. They had hosted for the Snorri West program as well as many other volunteer activities. The photo below is with another genealogist who lives in Iceland as many of the IR team traveled to Winnipeg in May of 2019 for the 100-year celebration of the Icelandic National League of North America convention hosted by the Winnipeg Frón.

After the Genealogy Seminar on Sunday, August 5th, he said, “I want to stay (in Gimli) and have dinner with the team. It’s been a great weekend and we have to eat anyway. It was a fun weekend and we should celebrate. This weekend I made many people happy.” He was laughing and enjoying himself throughout the weekend. These photos were taken just a few hours before he passed.

Gwen, Russ, and Sunna in Gimli

His candor, wit, and the love of our IR work was a shining example to all. I am especially going to miss the conversations that started out, “Sunna, I made an executive decision....” His decisions were always correct and his leadership and initiative to accomplish the work was always appreciated. We could count on his support and willingness to help in any situation. Gwen will continue on the IR team and we are all so glad. Through our volunteer work and weekly meet-ups online, we have all become close friends sharing a passion to document all people with Icelandic connections and DNA. There are 40 volunteers working with IR now - but Russ was one of the main volunteers and he will be immensely missed.

Russ, who gave so much of his time, talents, friendship, and more will be very missed by the entire IR team. It is very difficult when someone dies suddenly and this is so sad for our team and for the family. We send our deepest sympathies to Gwen and all their family. The body is an outer covering for the soul, which never dies. We know that you will always be here around us. Gone too soon. Rest in peace dear friend and teammate.


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