of Wall, South Dakota, died on Saturday, February 10, 2024 at his home south of Wall at the age of 77
Russell, as he was known by all, was born in Pittsburgh, PA to Anthony and Josephine Masartis. He attended the Pittsburgh First Primitive Methodist Church where he met his wife, Donna Lee Ceney and preached his first sermon at age 15. He attended California State College and got his divinity and education degree and became a Pastor in the Primitive Methodist Denomination.
Russell and Donna married at their home church, the First Primitive Methodist Church of Pittsburgh, on September 9, 1967. At that time, Russell was a student pastor, and Donna became a Pastor’s Wife, and would learn so much about her position only as she worked alongside Russell in partnership. Russell and Donna had an inspiring ministry living in Rowles Run, PA, Wilkes barre, PA, Carnegie, PA, Pittsburgh (Lawrenceville), PA, Lowell, MA, Benton, WI, Mission SD, and finally Wall, SD. Together they started bible studies, Youth Groups, GRADE Program (Growth Resulting after Discipleship and Evangelism, A fiber arts Center, a Winter Walkers Program, Hot Meal Program, and several successful and still running Food Pantries and Thrift Shops. During the 54 years as a pastor, Russell served many churches in both the Primitive Methodist and United Methodist Church Denominations as well as several years as the Director at the Tree of Life Relief Agency on the Rosebud Lakota Reservation.
Russell made his first attempt to retire in 2015 but was called back to the ministry to serve as a pastor for the Wall and Wasta SD Churches and he and Donna started the Open Hearts Cancer Care ministry. Russell eventually retired July 1, 2023.
Russell embraced the simpler life in the Badlands and loved spending time with his dogs and other animals. He was preceded in death by his wife, Donna L. Masartis whom he lost 2 years ago.
Russell was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in September 2023 and enjoyed his life with his family right to the end. Russell was a father, a grandfather a great-grandfather and was soon to be a great-great-grandfather. He is survived by his daughter Donnalynn James (William Deppe); his son Russell Robert Masartis (Cheri); his seven grandchildren Jamie Hoover (Jesse), Courtney Bland (Will) Brittni Hayes (Sir Crumpet) Kelsey Boeggeman (John), Riley Hayes (Michele) Keirsten Masartis and Alexandra Masartis; his eight great-grandchildren Ally Hoover, Abby Hoover, Matthew Ruffing, Anthony (AJ) Boggeman, Leila (Ladybug) Boeggeman, Liam Bland, Olivier (Ollie Bland) and Violet Bland. Russell had one great-great-grandchild on the way due in July 2024 that he affectionately called “Tator Tot”.
There will be a private family celebration of life at a later date.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Open Hearts Cancer Care Ministry that Russell and Donna started to reach out to South Dakota cancer patients, monthly with encouragement.
Please send donations to
Open Hearts Cancer Care Ministry
C/O Wall United Methodist Church
PO Box 313
Wall, SD 57790