Melanie Russell: A Tribute

Two photos, one a black and white image of three people holding charity buckets, and a colour picture of a woman holding buckets

Photo: Melanie with husband John Russell (left) and Rachel Everard.

19th May 2022

In memory of one of our dear supporters who passed away this May, with details of the post-funeral gathering.

We're very sorry indeed to have to report the passing of Melanie Russell, who died on Friday 6th May 2022, aged 62.

Melanie joined us in the early 1990s, back when we were called the Association for Stammerers. Although she didn't stammer herself, Melanie signed up to show solidarity with her partner John Russell, who found us when he attended a London open day for the first time in 1991.

A man and a woman holding charity collection buckets, looking at the camera
John & Melanie Russell, collecting money in a Reading supermarket

This was a "never-to-be-forgotten experience" for John, as he told us in his article for Your Voice, and he has been heavily involved with our charity ever since. John raises funds through collections, sponsored runs and skydives whenever he can; he puts on awareness raising stalls, he volunteers, cheers on runners and regularly attends all our events. This dedication was recognised when John was named Third Sector's Volunteer of the Year in 2020.

Standing by John's side on many of those occasions was Melanie, and she deserves recognition for her part in this amazing achievement. She was right there with John in supermarkets, high streets and train stations, brandishing collection tins and handing out leaflets about stammering, whatever the weather (see the pictures above). She accompanied John to conferences and open days up and down the country for thirty years. They even travelled from Reading to East London together on a cold Sunday afternoon just to show support to STAMMA staff as we took part in the Santa Run in December 2019.

That Melanie has sadly passed away is a terrible loss, first and foremost to her husband, John, and also to the stammering community with whom she had such a strong connection and on who she supported tirelessly."

Rachel Everard

Rachel Everard, former Chair and Service Director (in the top picture), gave this tribute: "Ever since I started attending British Stammering Association events, I always enjoyed chatting to John and Melanie Russell, a lovely couple who radiated an aura of warmth, calm and empathy. That Melanie has sadly passed away is a terrible loss, first and foremost to her husband, John, and also to the stammering community with whom she had such a strong connection and on who she supported tirelessly. She was gentle, kind and loyal, a reassuring presence, and the world is poorer for her loss".

Four people looking at the camera and smiling
Melanie (right) with Christine Simpson, Amanda Littleboy and husband John Russell

Trustee Christine Simpson contributed these words: "John and Melanie have been an amazing force for good to BSA/STAMMA over many years. I have known them for over 20 years and I will always remember Melanie's support at so many fundraisers. We stood together at supermarket bag packs, fundraising at a London theatre and various sponsored runs. She was willing to do anything it took and she and John were such a great team. Our community has lost one of our best supporters and I hope it is some comfort to John to know how much she was valued by the community".

STAMMA is not just a place for people who stammer. We're here too for people like Melanie — loved ones, family members, friends, supporters and advocates upon whom stammering also touches. A lot of us who stammer at some point in our lives worry about finding that special someone who will be accepting and supportive of our speech. John found that in Melanie. Seeing them together every year at conferences; inseparable, a team, life companions; was encouraging and heart-warming, and it was hard not be envious of the bond they shared and the strength and moral support she no doubt gave John.

We'll miss seeing Melanie at our events and we thank her for all her unwavering support over the years. Our thoughts are with John at this difficult time.

Melanie's funeral service was held on Tuesday 31st May. John requested that any donations, instead of sending flowers, be made to the two charities that Melanie supported: STAMMA and the Turner Syndrome Support Society. If you'd like to make an online donation, go to memorygiving.com/melaniejanerussell