John Louis Russo Sr., a retired welder whose dancing ability earned him the nickname as the "Shagger from Little Italy," died of respiratory failure Monday at Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 88.
Mr. Russo was born in Baltimore and raised on Exeter Street in Little Italy. He attended city public schools and went to work as a welder in 1939 at the Lever Bros. plant on Holabird Avenue.
He enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1941 and served as a staff sergeant with the 421st Night Fighters, assigned to New Guinea. At the end of the war, he returned to Baltimore and his job, retiring from Lever Bros. in 1976.
In 1940, Mr. Russo married Bernice Podraza. Since 1954, the couple had made their home in Hamilton. They also had a second home in Ocean City until 1999.
The Russos were well-known shag dancers, and often performed at dances held at the old Alcazar Hotel on Cathedral Street, the Polish Home and Recreation Pier in Fells Point. Mr. Russo particularly liked dancing the shag to the music of Harry James, Louie Prima and local Baltimore band leader Al Bates. He and his wife continued dancing until he was in his 80s.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Schimunek Funeral Home, 9705 Belair Road, Perry Hall.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Russo is survived by a son, John L. Russo Jr. of Bel Air; a daughter, Linda J. Sweeney of Pasadena; and two grandchildren.