The Eastland Disaster Historical Society (EDHS) was founded in late 1998 as a family-run organization. After the first few years of establishing itself by providing an important - and missing - service to the public, the organization sought to grow the membership on its board beyond just the family members. In 2002, Russell Lewis and several other volunteers from Chicago-area businesses joined the EDHS Board of Trustees. Russell was elected by the board to serve as the board's first chairperson.
Seventeen years later, and as EDHS executed its succession plan to meld its operations into three iconic Chicago institutions, Russell's role as board chair concluded, having served as the one and only board chairperson in the organization’s history.
To acknowledge and celebrate Russell's heartfelt and passionate contributions to EDHS over nearly two decades, the EDHS Board of Trustees voted unanimously to create a permanent legacy honoring his volunteer service. (Read the board's two-page memo and declaration here.) This honorary webpage, plus several collections of artifacts and documents named in honor of Russell donated to local museums and libraries, serve as reminders of Russell's lasting legacy to EDHS, its community of followers, and the public in general.
Russell Lewis passed from this earth on April 19, 2019 due to pancreatic cancer. The American, Illinois, and Chicago flags were flown at half-staff in his memory the following Monday at the Chicago History Museum(CHM). (The CHM memorial may be read here.)