The Corner


Gerald Russello, In Memoriam

Gerald Russello speaks at the University of Colorado, October 11, 2018. (Screenshot via YouTube)

I only had the privilege of meeting Gerald Russello (1971–2021) once in person. It was five years ago, and we happened to be at an ISI event together. Upon my arrival, I walked into the lobby of the hotel hosting the conference, and Gerald and I immediately recognized one another from photos we’d seen. He gave me a huge smile and an equally huge bear hug. I was, naturally, quite taken with his warm welcome, and it certainly seemed like we’d known each other for a long time. And, given emails and correspondence over the last 20-plus years, we really had known each other much longer than our one in-person meeting would suggest. Indeed, we corresponded frequently — and about everything. Sometimes we talked Russell Kirk, sometimes we talked Christopher Dawson, sometimes we talked about events relevant to the conservative movement, and sometimes we talked music (we shared some of the same eccentric tastes in rock).

Gerald will be remembered for many things, especially for his loving editorial care of and over the University Bookman, but I knew him best as a Kirk and Dawson expert. His work on both was simply extraordinary. Gerald’s carefully edited 1998 work on Dawson, Christianity and European Culture, certainly contributed to a mini-revival of Dawson’s thought and helped inspire the reprinting of Dawson’s collected works by the Catholic University of America Press (Gerald wrote the introduction for one of these, too). Gerald’s best work, though, was his stunning 2007 book, The Post-Modern Imagination of Russell Kirk, one of the finest books written on Kirk or modern conservatism. As the title suggests, Gerald especially focused on the role of imagination as a central faculty for any serious thought about this age or any other. In my own work, I was always about a decade behind Gerald, but my own work would never have been what it was without Gerald’s pioneering successes.

While his health was good, Gerald was a force of nature on Twitter, attempting to keep the social-media platform from ever becoming too extreme, left or right. True to his nature, Gerald always promoted the good, the true, and the beautiful. He approached the forum with good humor and good will.

His death is still a shock to me, and I will sorely miss him. His last message to me was hopeful. “Mostly [doing] ok, but treatment keeps you exhausted and foggy-minded. Thanks for your prayers! God is showing me a new path and I need the support of prayers to understand and be open to His Will.” Amen. Rest in Peace, Gerald.

Bradley J. Birzer holds the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies at Hillsdale College, where he is a professor of history. He is the author of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth (2002) and The Inklings: Tolkien and the Men of the West (forthcoming).


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