Local, friend gifted with kindness

Published 12:11 am Thursday, June 26, 2014

NATCHEZ —Connie Russell was a schoolteacher long before she moved to Natchez.

In the classroom, she required students to do 100 acts of kindness a week.

On Tuesday, a kindness was done back to her that involved a life-long friend and the mayor of Baton Rouge.

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Kindness and service is a running theme through the Russell family. Connie’s husband, Bill, was a Marine and police chief. The Russells came to Natchez out of kindness to their daughter to help raise her children, said family friend Betty Arnold.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” Connie said, recalling what her grandchild told her. “My papa and honey are here.”

Within the year the Russells came to Natchez, their daughter began divorce proceedings, Connie said. The daughter wanted to move back to their native Tennessee and the Russells were preparing to move again.

Kindness came into focus again, Connie said, when her childhood friend Betty agreed to fly from Chicago to help them move.

She flew to her connection in Dallas, and was delayed. Betty is diabetic, and the delay kept her away from her insulin longer than she was expecting. Betty said the long wait had left her physically weak, and she had to keep asking airport staff if she could have access to her luggage to get her medicine.

“Everything was out of wack,” Betty said.

When the plane boarded, she collapsed in her seat in the back row, exhausted.

Betty did not realize that she was in the wrong seat until the man who was supposed to be sitting there showed up, she said. The man introduced himself as Kip.

Betty tried to move, but had enough difficulty that the man offered for her to keep the seat.

Betty said that Kip was very kind to her, and he would check up on her during the flight and ask if she was okay. Every time she would say she is just fine, and would quickly go back to sleep.

“I felt a peace and calm came over me,” Betty said after she met Kip. “Before I felt close to death.”

When Betty arrived in Baton Rouge, she was lead off the airplane to the tarmac to find a wheel chair, medics and two police officers waiting. The man who sat next to her called them. When she said she was going to rent a car and drive to Natchez, the man insisted that they take his car.

“I knew he was somebody,” Betty said. “I just didn’t know who.”

Betty felt safe enough to take this man’s offer, and it was not until they were on the road that she found out the man in the car was Mayor Walter “Kip” Holden of Baton Rouge. Betty arrived in Natchez, and helped the Russell family move.

Betty said she is fine now and gave Mayor Holden and the staff plenty of hugs and thanks.

“It seemed like God sent him to me,” Betty said.