By building 1,800 birdhouses, Trevor Russell is still keeping the promise he made to his wife to fortify the bluebird population in the area and the state

by: KEVIN SPERL - Trevor Russell has built over 1,800 bluebird houses to date.

Trevor Russell has been diligently keeping a promise that he made to his wife almost 10 years ago.

On Dec. 16, 2004, Russell’s wife, Vivian, went to the store to buy two dresses and was anxious to get home to model them.

“Afterwards, I told her that she had better take a nap before heading out for dinner that night,” said Russell. “I lay down next to her to help her go to sleep and we had a chance to talk about a lot of things.”

During their talk, Vivian, who had Parkinsons, reminded Russell of his promise to continue working to establish the bluebird population in the area and the state.

Vivian then proceeded to go out for dinner and, after she came home, was in bed by 9:30 that night.

“When I came to bed around 11, she had died,” said Russell. “But, she had a really enjoyable day, that last day she was alive.”

Russell and his wife had been married for 57 years, raising their four children Nick, Frank, Patti and Jeff.

“I met Vivian in the spring of 1946 when she and her friend came into the confectionary and my roommate and I both saw her,” said Russell. “My roommate picked up on Vivian, but a week later I saw her and we got together.”

Despite the fact that she was engaged, Russell convinced her that he was the one for her, and the couple was soon married despite the objections of her father, who was heard to say “I was afraid something like this would happen.”

To keep his promise, Russell has been building birdhouses, lots of them, constructing 1,800 so far.

Russell turned to the Internet for the requirements of building the houses, learning that the entrance hole should be no smaller than 5/16 of an inch and no larger than one and one half inches, to prevent other birds from entering and taking the eggs.

Additional requirements stated that the hole should be 5.5 inches from the bottom and the floor area should be four-by-four inches.

“The common blue bird house is a rectangular-shaped house,” explained Russell. “I have settled on my own design, which is a 45-degree angled roof. I want to be able to recognize my houses when I see them.”

To ensure he can, Russell drills his initials “TR” into every one.

As Russell gets older (he turns 88 next week) he finds it more difficult to get out to hang the houses, so he is enlisting the help of the general public, giving away birdhouses to anyone who wants one.

It takes Russell about an hour to build each house, using wood from wherever he can find it.

“The last batch I made was with wood from Parr Lumber,” said Russell, thinking he was going to be able to purchase it at cost. “When I went down to pick up the wood, I was told that it was free. I made at least 20 bird houses out of those boards.”

Russell has also retrieved wood that has been placed in dumpsters, been given a pile of weathered wood, and collected wood out of a neighbor’s basement.

Russell’s promise even attracted the attention of local author Rick Steber, who chronicled his story in a book titled “A Promise Given.”

“I was told of a fellow who had made over a thousand bird houses and was giving them away to anyone who would put them up,” said author Rick Steber on his website. “That simple fact piqued my interest. As a writer, I wanted to know why someone would be that altruistic. I knew there had to be a story there. I learned the man’s name was Trevor Russell. I visited him and when he told me he was building and giving away bird houses -- because of a promise given -- and he told me about the promise he had made to his dying wife, I knew his story needed to be shared.”

And Russell has shared his bird houses, hoping to place at least one of them in each of the states and throughout Canada.

Each winter, Russell travels to Yuma, Ariz., traveling by car with his son, Nick, and 24 bird houses.

“We take three days to get there and place the bird houses along the way,” said Russell. “I have one at almost every rest area between here and there.”

Although Russell will never know if most of the bird houses will ever see a bluebird, he has gotten a lot of satisfaction from the project.

“I have met a lot of wonderful people due to Rick’s book, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” he said. “To me it has been a crusade.”

Russell asks only that people understand his story, and the promise he made his wife, when taking a birdhouse.

“The easiest way is to read Steber’s book,” he said. “There are a lot of them out there, at the library, and I have one that I will loan out.”

“And, if they have any 1x6 boards that I can use, I would certainly appreciate it,” Russell added.

“Life is sweet, tender and complete

When you find the bluebird of happiness.

You will find perfect peace of mind

When you find the bluebird of happiness.

Two hearts that beat as one,

‘Neath a new found sun,”

Bluebird of Happiness” Little Jimmy Scott

Anyone interested in acquiring a birdhouse is invited to call Russell at 541-233-8152.

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