Russell E. Gingras, former chief of staff at Applied Physics Laboratory, dies

Russell E. Gingras, former chief of staff at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, where he worked for 44 years, died Oct. 29, after a lengthy battle with head and neck cancer. The Columbia resident was 71.

Mr. Gingras was born in Chicago. His father, Edward Gingras, worked in the commercial meat business. His mother, Gladys Rolf, was a bank manager. He was an only child.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois, Mr. Gingras moved to Maryland in 1969 to work for the Applied Physics Laboratory. He settled in Columbia. He also earned master’s degrees in electrical engineering and technical management from the Johns Hopkins University.

“That was his first and only job. He lived in a very local area. He enjoyed Columbia and the sense of community that Columbia has,” said his wife, Susan Childs. The two initially met in 1975. They reconnected in 1986 at a Halloween party.

“It was a costume party. I was not dressed up because I had somewhere to go afterward. He was a pilot. He had on this leather jacket,” she said. “I was just glad to see him. It had been a long time. His hair was grayer, which was kind of surprising. But it was nice to see him and catch up. He was always a nice person.”

Within two months they started dating. They were married in 1989.

At work, Mr. Gingras continued to ascend. In 1981, Mr. Gingras joined the Naval Warfare Analysis Department. There he led development of the Laboratory’s central war gaming facility, the Warfare Analysis Laboratory.

At the WAL Mr. Gingras was appointed to the APL Principal Professional Staff. He was named a group supervisor in 1983. He was appointed assistant department head of the laboratory’s Joint Warfare Analysis Department in 1994, and department head in 1997.

Mr. Gingras was named APL’s chief of staff in 2004. He retired in 2012 but continued as the board secretary through late 2014.

Ron Luman, APL’s current chief of staff, started working with Mr. Gingras in 2000.

“He plucked me out of a different area and asked me to be his assistant at the Joint Warfare Analysis Department Lab,” Mr. Luman recalled. “When he retired, I became the chief of staff. We were very close. He had a great sense of humor. He was very well known and accomplished. He was not a proud man. He was very humble and quick-witted.

“It was very freeing working for him. He would just give me general guidance. He always had a strategic perspective. … He was always challenging the executive council to think a little differently — nontraditional ideas.”

In 2014, Mr. Gingras was presented with the Navy’s second-highest civilian honor, the Superior Public Service Award.

Mr. Gingras, who was known for his sense of humor, also loved drinking wine and traveling with his wife.

“We traveled all over the world,” she said. “We belonged to a number of wine clubs. He was a red wine fan. We liked red zinfandel. We just liked the bold, jammy type of dry red wines. He also liked chardonnay. But the reds were most of what we drank.”

They liked to travel in vineyards across the globe. They rarely traveled to the same place twice — other than their annual trips to Anna Maria Island in Florida.

“We have family in the area too,” his wife explained. “It’s just a beautiful area. The water is just clear and beautiful. ... It’s great to be there — particularly in the winter months. We loved being on the beach and swimming.”

The two also loved to travel with their granddaughters, Madeline, 14, and Hayden, 12.

“Those grandchildren adored him, and he adored them,” she said. “We took them every year on a vacation in the summer. We wanted them to appreciate travel. We had wonderful, wonderful vacations with them.”

The four traveled the country — mainly going to historic locations and to national parks, she said.

“We wanted them to understand and appreciate this beautiful Earth that we have,” she said. “We wanted them to appreciate history. They loved it. … Even pushing him around in a wheelchair, they thought that was great.”

Ms. Childs said the two were private people.

“Mostly I will miss our time together talking about politics to our family and grandchildren,” she said. “I’ll just really miss spending time with him. He was just a really interesting person. It will be very difficult. I’ll miss cooking for him. I loved to cook. He loved wine. We had great dinners. We didn’t go out a lot.”

Services were held Friday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City.

In addition to his wife and granddaughters, Mr. Gingras is survived by two daughters, Nicole Bruette Rathmann of Mount Airy, and Carrie Gingras of Ellicott City.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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