Who’s Who: Burton L. Russell

Mister Valley Sports
By Mike Butler

I am going to start my 2021 Who’s Who roster with someone who embodies two of my favourite things: community and history. Now, these qualities barely scratch the surface when describing Burton L. Russell but they’re a great start. Burton L. Russell is so Valley-famous that an introduction seems almost pointless, but I love writing introductions so I’m going to do it anyway. Burton is a preserver of Valley history, something that is a lost art in my mind, and over the years Burton has produced an incredible wealth of historic Valley literature both pleasing to the mind and to the heart. His connections are vast, his legacy is immense, and his love of community goes above and beyond what I can only hope to achieve. After a very tumultuous 2020 for many, when the world was turned upside down and most didn’t know what to do, where to turn, or how to adapt, Burton reminded us of how reflecting on the past can give us a better sense of self in the present and made us look to the future with a more positive outlook. This is a very special man and a Valley treasure. I am both proud and honoured to begin my 2021 Grapevine Who’s Who writing assignments with the one and only Burton L. Russell.

Burton L. Russell is a well-educated man, in both schooling and in life. Experience is part of education and this man has lived more in his lifetime than most. Burton spent his first nine grades at Upper Church Street School in Chipman Corner and then completed grades 10 through 12 at KCA, graduating in 1954. He received his BA and BEd from Acadia University in 1957 and 1958. He also holds diplomas in physical educational and supervision from the province’s Department Of Education.

“I spent nine years at Cornwallis District and Central Kings schools teaching English and physical education,” Says Burton, “and for the last 25 years of my teaching career (1968-1993), I taught high school English at KCA, with 15 of those years also coaching the KCA hockey team and ten of those years coaching senior boys softball with a highlight being named Coach of the Year on two occasions in the Valley High School Hockey League.”

Since 1972, Burton has written 13 books focusing on the history of sports in the Annapolis Valley with emphasis on hockey and baseball. His latest literary endeavour, entitled Down Memory Lane: Highlights of Kentville’s Sports is a treasure trove for any sports enthusiast and lover of Valley history: 418 pages of incredible Valley sports facts and stories with many nostalgic photos to accompany them. I encourage you all to pick up a copy of the book, by contacting Burton at the information below or stopping by R.D. Chisholms in Kentville, and become absorbed in a history that I have a deep connection to. I was not the most sports-minded fella but growing up in Kentville, sports was a thriving activity for so many. My father, Everett Butler, owned and operated Everett’s Sporting Goods in Kentville , with many other locations in the province and he also played a multitude of sports so Burton has generously honoured my dad with photos and mentions in his book. Peek closely at page 377, you might recognize someone!

“For the past five decades,” comments Burton, “I concentrated on the writings of several major sports at the Nova Scotia level. I also wrote two books about Acadia University and with the opening of the Kentville Museum Society, I thought a book about Kentville Sports may be timely. Since the age of 11, I have been gathering scrapbooks and albums of Nova Scotia athletes and individuals in the sports world (from 1946-2020) and at nearly 75 years, I’m still going strong with this hobby. I devote at least two hours a day to NS sports history projects with the hopes of writing the next great anthology.”

While engaging in his love of sports and history are the driving factors for his books, Burton also commented that one of the best rewards in this hobby are the many friendships, relationships, and sports discussions that have stemmed from his research. And the accolades have been pretty amazing, as well, including being named to the Acadia University Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and to the Maritime Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. Anyone who has encountered Burton is never shy of singing his praises and if I ever thought I was a busy man, Burton has certainly put that to shame with how many activities he’s been a part of. Through history we learn and grow and change and Burton has contributed so much historical information to various athletic associations across the province over the years. He served for thirty years as statistician for the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League and first and foremost, all historical facts aside, Burton has been Valley sports’ biggest fan for seven-plus decades and that, in itself, is worth all the praise.

For questions, comments, book inquiries and more, you can contact Burton at burtonrussell0@gmail.com, or pop by R.D. Chisholms, Kentville and pick up a copy of Down Memory Lane for your reading pleasure. It’s never too late to be a part of history! And to Burton, Mister Valley Sports, I bid the best for the new year. May it be filled with peace, joy, and many more facts and stories for the next great book. Thank you for being YOU!