Mike Russo was born in 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during a WWII blackout.  At one and a half, baby Michael drank his first hard liquor, polishing off leftover whiskey the morning after a New Year’s Eve party that was held in his home.  At two and a half  he smoked his first Camels, using a $0.50-piece that he stole that was lying on a huge Philco radio.  For that minor indiscretion, he received an old-fashioned strap-beating from his mama.  At five he  saw his first TV with Felix the Cat on an 8-inch-diameter, round, black-and-white TV-screen set in a huge TV set.  At six, with his parent’s consent, Michael played hooky from first grade for a month, helping his dad renovate their home.  At ten, he wanted to be a conservationist but settled on being a farmer or forester since conservationists were not a career choice back then.  He also began working Saturdays and summers at his father’s butcher shop but managed to get away one summer to attend farm school.   At sixteen he hiked part of the Appalachian Trail alone.  He loved the Boy Scouts and did Native-American dances and songs as part of the “Tribe” that a Scout leader (who had lived with the Blackfeet) started in his Boy Scout troop.  He also learned to play the bugel and played taps often on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.  He attended South Philadelphia High School and was in 60’s pop-singer Fabian Forte’s biology class and met Chubby (“The Twist”) Checker.  At 18 he began working for five summers as a camp counselor, Unit Leader, and director of Counselors-in-Training, at a camp in Pennsylvania’s Pocono mountains.  He also taught Indian Lore while there and performed the dangerous, but spectacular, fire-hoop dance.

Mike attended Penn State University and majored in forestry for 3 years before switching majors to parks and recreation administration.  After graduation, he worked for a while for the U.S. Department of the Interior before attending graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his Masters of Government Administration from the Fels Government Center, which was in U. of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School back then.

In 1968 Mike married his first true love, Maria, but a large brain tumor ultimately painfully destroyed his marriage in 1969.   In 1970 he worked for the State of Pennsylvania as a consultant to the City of Chester.  He then began his 40-year career with the U.S. Department of the Interior which eventually took him to Washington, DC, where he, in addition to his Federal job, taught adult education at night, and also where he got married again (to Sharon).  After working in Washington for 12 years, he moved to Colorado to set up grant-in-aid operations for western States and Tribes, and later wrote environmental regulations for his Federal Bureau.  In 1986 Mike had a second brain tumor removed.  For 19 of his 27 years in Colorado he lived with his wife on top of a 9,000′-high mountain in the Rocky Mountains (and commuted to Denver for work).

Mike retired in 2010 and humanely trapped and took care of feral and stray cats and had them neutered in accordance with the national “Trap, Neuter and Release” campaign to combat the overpopulation and suffering of feral and homeless cats.  As part of this work, he set up a heated “in & out by themselves” cat shelter for homeless stray and feral cats near his Denver home.  He received Denver’s Channel 7 “Everyday Hero” Award for this work.

Mike has been married twice and divorced twice and now spends a lot of time writing on the environment, health, race relations, politics, and marriage, as well as nine other areas where he has gained experience and knowledge in his 79 years.   He has two sisters and a brother and now lives in Pennsylvania and is pursuing an unpaid retirement career of writing and occasional talk radio after having 23 years of public speaking experience in Toastmasters International, a public speaking organization.

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