Russ Rechner passed away aged 77 in Toorak Victoria. He was a dedicated family man who enjoyed a distinguished career across retail and banking sectors and made a major contribution to the Presbyterian and later Uniting Church.
Born in Adelaide in 1940, his father’s career as a bank manager for the Bank of Adelaide meant Russ spent his childhood and teens moving between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and eventually back to Adelaide with his family.
Russ completed school at Adelaide High and went on to the University of Adelaide to study economics on a scholarship with BHP.
After graduating he moved to Melbourne in 1962 and attended the College Presbyterian Church Parkville, where at age 24 he became their auditor.
In February 1963, he and Alison Milne were married by Rev Dr Alan Watson at Alison’s church, Toorak Presbyterian.
While Russ worked in the city, the young couple lived at International House, a residential college of The University of Melbourne, where Russ also tutored. Russ became a Fellow of International House and kept a close relationship with the college for the rest of his life.
Russ and Alison were delighted to start a family in 1967 with the birth of Toby. Sue followed in 1970 and Josephine in 1972. The family moved to Malvern and all children were christened at Ewing Memorial Presbyterian Church. On the day of Jo’s christening Russ was made an elder of Ewing, an event that was reported in the Crosslight of its day. Before long, Russ became treasurer at Ewing.
In 1975 the family moved to Burwood and joined St Margaret’s Burwood. The Uniting Church was soon inaugurated and Russ became chair of the parish. By this time, he was an executive director and the head of finance at The Myer Emporium. He brought his wise, stoic and self‐controlled approach as well his kind and sensitive style, to his work for the church.
In 1981 Russ joined the council of his daughters’ school (also Alison’s school), PLC, and later was asked to be chair at a time of significant change – the inauguration of the Uniting Church. This role tested his diplomacy skills and he was on the council for nine years and chair for five.
After 21 years at Myer, Russ joined the National Mutual Royal Bank, which was subsequently taken over by ANZ. He stayed on with the bank until his retirement in 2000.
Russ and Alison returned to Toorak, now Uniting, Church. He was privileged to be on the selection committee for the current minister, Rev Chris Page, which was the start of an enduring friendship.
In retirement, Russ was chair of the ANZ Staff Super Fund for 12 years and chair of The Australian Payments Network for six years. He became involved with the Uniting Church synod. He was the inaugural chair of the Synod Risk Management Committee from December 2007 to December 2014, was chair of the Synod Finance Committee from 2014 to 2017, and was a Member of the Synod Property Board from 2014 to 2017. At his memorial service, it was noted, “He played a pivotal role… in providing leadership, financial analysis and wise financial stewardship and guidance in decision-making to support the Church as a whole”.
A former colleague and dear friend also commented at Russ’ memorial service that “what most mattered to Russ were other‐worldly matters, beyond the material day‐to‐day pursuits that consume us. His gaze was always on the horizon, listening deeply and gently influencing for the good… He heard the emotions behind the words and sensed what was being left unsaid.
“As a leader, Russ had a deep understanding of the distinction between power and influence, and appreciated that the more influence we share, the more we have.”
Russ was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather; a fine man with a strong faith, who contributed so much to so many.
He is survived by Alison, his three children and eight grandchildren. He is greatly missed.
Sue Boxer (Rechner)