Charles Russel

Charles Russel

July 13, 2015

The state board of the Alberta Knights of Columbus has appointed a former salesman from Calgary as head of the 18,000-member organization.

Charles Russell, a 74-year-old former salesman and trouble-shooter with Hilti Canada for 27 years, was chosen from among several other candidates to become state deputy of the Knights at a July 1 board meeting in Red Deer.

As state secretary, Russell attended the board meeting, but did not participate in the selection process.

The board was forced to select a new state deputy following the death last April of state deputy-elect Grant Mann.

Mann died of heart complications April 29, just 10 days after having been elected leader of the Knights at the order's convention in Red Deer.

Russell, a widower for 11 years, said he put his name forward because he thinks he has what it takes to lead the organization. Apart from having time available from being retired, Russell knows how to deal with people.

"I was in sales management so I managed people throughout my working career, and I became the company trouble-shooter every time they had a personnel problem or they had a situation that needed some new blood," he said.


He joined Hilti, a large tool company, in Montreal but was transferred to many parts of the country over the years. "The reason I was transferred was because they needed to solve some situations that they had in different areas," he explained.

"I'm not saying we have a problem within the Knights of Columbus, but I felt I could manage people having done it for 27 years. Following that, I had my own little company for 11 years; so from a business perspective I feel I have the qualifications to head up the Knights of Columbus of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. So that was my main reason (for putting my name forward)."

Former State Deputy William Smith said Russell was chosen state deputy because he was well qualified for the job. "I think he is going to be a great asset for the Knights of Alberta and Northwest Territories," he said.

Russell, who has four adult children and seven grandchildren, is not sure if he will run for a second term next April at the Knights' convention.

"I have to see what happens," he said. "If things go well, probably; if things don't go well, maybe not. I'll decide that next February or March. Right now, I have been appointed for a year and that's what I am concentrating on."

Presently Russell is busy trying to get people in place in the different programs and committees. He won't have a plan of action in place until he meets with the supreme council, something he expects to happen soon.

"What I hope to do is continue the good work that we have been doing," he said. "I also hope to have a good working relationship with all of the councils and all 18,000 members."

Born in Cornwall, Ont., the oldest of four children, Russell served as an altar boy from Grade 2 until age 18. He studied in Catholic schools from Grade 1 until he entered university. He joined the Knights of Columbus out of curiosity almost 40 years ago in Toronto.

"My father was a knight, my grandfather was a knight, my father-in-law was a knight, and they all would go up to the Knights of Columbus. But as kids, we were never allowed to go in so I figured I had to join just to find out what went on behind closed doors."

He joined and went up through the ranks despite his lack of time. Due to his job, Russell was on an airplane about twice a week.

When he was transferred to Nova Scotia, he helped form a first degree team there. "I got very involved, met the people and helped form about seven or eight councils in and around the province," he recalls.


Russell served in various positions up to grand knight in Nova Scotia until he was transferred to Calgary, where he served as grand knight of the Father Albert Newman Council for two terms.

He later served as district deputy, and about nine years ago he moved to the state level, serving for five years as assistant treasurer on the state board.

He was eventually elected state treasurer and served in that position for four years until he was elected state secretary at the last convention.

Russell also volunteers on several boards and organizations in Calgary, including the Magic of Christmas charity, so he says he is too busy to have fun. However, he has one hobby – deep-sea fishing, which he does only occasionally.

He is a fan of Pope Francis because the pontiff "has given us some very clear guidelines and is not afraid to speak his mind and make some hard decisions."