Russell G. Conklin, 89, Descendant of Founder

Sept. 1, 1929 - Sept. 29, 2018
Russell G. Conklin, Sept. 1, 1929 - Sept. 29, 2018

Russell Gay Conklin was a family man of deep faith and myriad interests who began every morning with a few moments of religious contemplation.

Mr. Conklin, 89, who was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease late in life, died after 10 days of pneumonia on Sept. 29 at Orchard Pointe in Surprise, Ariz..

Mr. Conklin and his wife, Marjorie, retired to Sun City West, Ariz. in 1993. He was buried with military honors at Holy Cross Cemetery in Avondale, Ariz. 

He was born in Southampton on Sept. 1, 1929, to Russell and Louise Conklin and grew up in East Hampton as a member of a large extended family. He was proud to be an 11th-generation descendant of William Hedges, of one of the founding families of East Hampton. Through genealogical research, Mr. Conklin was also able to locate his mother’s relatives in Germany, who became friends.

Mr. Conklin’s family described him as a talented individual who loved learning and mastering new things throughout his life. As a young man, he was a carpenter, a gardener, and a beekeeper, and lavished homegrown produce and honey on family and friends. After two years with the Army during the Korean War, he used the G.I. Bill to attend Purdue University and later earned an M.B.A. from Indiana University, which launched him as a civil engineer. He had a long career with Caterpillar, and then with the Army Corps of Engineers. 

He and Marjorie Harisak of Yonkers, N.Y., were married in 1957, a union that lasted 55 years until her death in 2013. They had four children, and Mr. Conklin, a devoted husband and father, was constantly undertaking projects to improve their home.

His family said he loved reading about everything from business to finance, ancient history to science, travel to fitness. In retirement, he enjoyed a good night at a local karaoke club or going out dancing with his wife.

He is survived by his children, Elizabeth Conklin of Little Rock, Ark., Catherine Kauffman of Naperville, Ill., Peter Conklin of Portland, Ore., and Barbara Conklin Williamson of Litchfield Park, Ariz., and by three grandchildren. 

He and his wife were active members of the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Sun City West, Ariz., and volunteered for the Society of St. Vincent DePaul as well as a local food bank.

Among the things Mr. Conklin’s family cited in their memorial was a phrase by George Sand that they believe typified him: “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”