Board Member Russell Gonzales, passed on May 14, 2018. He served as Secretary, IT Director, Photographer, and Webmaster. Even with all those titles, none of them truly encapsulate the amount of dedication and roles that Russell filled in this community and while serving on the board.
Russell was born in Honolulu, Hawaii at Tripler Army Medical Center. His early childhood was in the Salt Lake area of Oahu and he and his family came to Kitsap County in 1973. Playing Star Trek at the East High School computer lab got him hooked on technology in 1975. He got his first computer in 1978 and he had worked in tech ever since. He had his bachelor's degree in Computer Information Systems.
Russell had big dreams for The Filipino-American Association of Kitsap County. He imagined a bakery which served coffee and ensaymadas in a drive thru from the building. He imagined taking Fil-Am Kitsap baked goods and desserts to local groceries. But more than that, he imagined a community that reached beyond the walls of this place; a community in which every Filipino could find belonging; a community that could advocate for the Filipino population at large.
You know that story about Jesus washing the apostles’ feet? That he, their leader, teacher, and savior would bend down and do something in service was shocking. But that action taught us something important. It didn’t diminish Jesus’s leadership; in fact, it fostered a kind of deeper connection and devotion from his apostles. It was leadership through gift of service.
Russell took this example and in very tangible ways; Russell worked to build this vision of a unified Filipino community. He was also active in the Pacific Northwest Ilocandia Association, the Visayan Club of Kitsap County, the Filipino Women's Club of Kitsap County, and the Filipino American Association of Bainbridge Island and Vicinity. He used his photography skills for Fil-Am Kitsap and these groups, documenting our parties, our celebrations. He spent countless hours editing and posting our photographs. With only the tiniest bit of complaint, he played Santa Claus at our Christmas parties. He used his publishing skills to compile souvenir programs. But beyond that, he gave freely of his time to convince all the rest of us that past slights, rivalries, and competitions were meaningless to the big picture. He reminded us all that if you’re Filipino, you too are my brother, my sister, my kuya, my ate, my manong, my manang.
In this, Russell did not only lead by service, he led by example. He lived to build that community he saw through his camera lens. Where all of us, with our myriad of lived experiences, could recognize the ways in which we have a shared culture, a shared ethnicity that unites us more effectively than what keeps us apart.
This is Russell’s legacy.