Home / The Honored / USCG FN Derek W. Russell



Derek Russell, a Hollis Center native and member of the Coast Guard, died Dec. 22, 2012 after a hiking accident in Kodiak, Alaska. He was 20 years old.
Russell was a fireman aboard Coast Guard Cutter Munro. FN Russell left the base in Kodiak around 10 a.m. Dec. 22 to hike the nearby Barometer Mountain. Coast Guard crews along with other rescuers committed hours to searching for him after he did not return to base. Offiicals say FN Russell slipped on a trail, fell more than 500 feet and died instantly. His remains were recovered three days later, on Christmas Day.
Russell attended Master’s House School at the New Life Christian Fellowship in Biddeford. He then attended Biddeford High School for two years, where he excelled at soccer and track. He left Biddeford High after his sophomore year to attend Calvary Chapel Christian Academy in Orrington. He graduated in 2011. Following graduation, Russell spent three months in Italy with his sister and uncle. His mother joined them in Italy for the last three weeks of their vacation. The family hiked extensively. Soon after, Russell left for the Coast Guard training center at Cape May, N.J. He graduated in late February.
He was assigned to the Munro in Kodiak in March. He was a fireman on the ship and worked in the engine room. His mother said he intended to make a career in the Coast Guard.
“He chose the Coast Guard because he felt a very strong desire to be close to home so he could protect it. He wanted to be right here.”
FN Russell is remembered as a “cool and easy-going guy,” who stood out among his peers for his sensitivity and kindness. His faith in God was very important to him. He is remembered by his family for his love of the outdoors and his passion for life. He was a bit of a risk-taker, who thought nothing of diving from the cliffs at Indian Cellar into the Saco River.
In addition to his mother, Russell is survived by his father, David and Josiah Bruns and Eliza Hennessey. FN Russell had a close bond with his sister Mercedes, who was his best friend.


  1. Mercedes Russell says:

    I remember the day Derek told me he wanted to join the Coast Guard. It was the fourth of July, and we walked down the breakwater off a beach in Kennebunkport. You could walk all the way down and sit and just watch the sea. You’d sit and it was there, right at your toes! It was raging that day, and we were waiting for the fireworks. Coast Guard boats zigged and zagged through the channel and back out again. As we watched, Derek talked. He said he wanted to defend as close to the nation as possible, and that speaks to the kind of man he was. I never felt afraid when he said he wanted to serve. He was was the kind of man that could help people understand his point of view with an astounding sense of responsibility and peaceful beauty. Ever since Derek, I’ve never met another who could talk like him, and boy do I miss our talks. What a gorgeous soul, what a blessing it was to have him by my side. We shared an irreplaceable bond, the kind that makes me all the better just because I knew him.
    The love I have will never fade for my Rocket man.

  2. Quiet, warm, respectful, sensitive, introspective, so sweet, faithful friend, loving son and brother, Funny, gifted in so many areas, quiet strength, loving, very handsome, god son ……. Loved, missed and never forgotten ……. ❣️✝️❣️

    See you soon Boo, Ant B

  3. Derek was one of my best friends. I had so many phone calls with him leading up to him joining the coast guard. He was so passionate about it and excited. He was never scared and I was never scared for him because he was Derek: calm, steady, strong, and invincible. He taught me how safe felt. He was always a protector, and I could always count on him. He had the kindest heart and a beautiful old soul. I will always miss him, and he will forever be a hero.
    Love you D, so proud to have had the time that I did with you. You are the reason I write, my blog is dedicated to you <3

  4. Seth Blais says:

    On Memorial Day weekend, I had the privilege to hike with Derek’s stone and share his story with others.

    In the weeks leading up to the hike, I had the opportunity to learn more about who Derek was as a man. Most importantly I was able to find out more about who he was as a son and a brother.

    Derek’s strong bond with his sister is very telling of the type of man he was. Even after his passing, he continues to have a positive impact on her. I admire the patience, love and kindness that he brought into relationships with those around him.

    Derek’s love for hiking is something that I share with him. There could not have been a more fitting place to carry his stone. At the summit of Owl Mountain, I was able to reflect on this journey, and share Derek’s story with the other hikers in my group. I shared with them about his compassion and respect for others, and his hunger for adventure. Derek has now not only impacted my life, but he has most definitely impacted the lives of those 10 other hikers.

    Thank you for the opportunity to carry Derek’s stone, and for your willingness to share such personal stories with me. Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

    Seth Blais