Born November 12, 1943 in Monroe, Michigan, Monsignor Russell E. Kohler was the son of the late Vernon A. and Mary E. (Kellison) Kohler. He graduated from Monroe Catholic Central High School in 1961. He entered his seminary studies at Our Lady of the Lake Seminary, Syracuse, Indiana and then transferred to Sacred Heart Seminary College, Detroit. He then enrolled at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan for graduate studies and took additional courses at the University of Detroit.
Msgr. Russ was ordained a Catholic priest at Detroit’s Assumption Grotto Church on Palm Sunday, April 15, 1973 by Bishop Joe Imesch and was assigned to St. Aloysius Parish, downtown
Detroit from 1974-1980. He also served at St. David of Wales Parish and Patronage of St. Joseph in Detroit. He was Chaplain at Sinai and Grace Hospitals in Detroit between 1982-1991. In 1991 he was named pastor of historic Most Holy Trinity Parish in Corktown, Detroit and on July 1, 2012 he was also appointed pastor of Ste. Anne de Detroit serving both parishes concurrently. He also had served as Associate Pastor at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Grotto) Parish, Detroit. In addition, he served as administrator of St. Patrick Parish, White Lake; St. Joseph Parish, Detroit; and St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Newport. On December 5, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Monsignor, Chaplain to His Holiness.
In 1974 he began working with cancer youth and established Pope John XXIII Hospitality House for cancer patients and was a director of Special Day Camps for youth with cancer and their siblings for over 30 years. In 1993 he helped create the Trinity Educational Foundation, which supports scholarships for inner city youth attending Most Holy Trinity School, founded in 1838. Msgr. Russ also organized, founded, and served as Chaplain of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Guild, an organization formed for the purpose of spiritually understanding the role of being a Catholic funeral director, and actively supported the St. Francis of Cabrini Clinic which provides medical and legal help for those in need.
He was appointed director of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s port ministry the Apostleship of the Sea by Cardinal Adam Maida in 1998. In 2009 he was appointed to the Michigan Board of Examiners in Mortuary Science by then Governor Jennifer Granholm and reappointed by Governor Rick Snyder, and also sat on the Automobile Theft Prevention Authority Board.
Msgr. Russ was a member and Chaplain of the Ancient Order of Hibernians for over thirty years. He graduated from the Schoolcraft Police Academy, serving as chaplain to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Detroit Metro Police Emerald Society and to the area police group, the Choir Boys. His memberships included chaplaincies to the Inter-Lake Yachting Association, Detroit Yacht Club, Bayview Yacht Club (Detroit) Swan Boat Club, (Newport, Michigan), Sunken Sail Yacht Club, (Irish Hills), National Apostleship of the Sea, Friends of the Detroit Fire Boat, Maltese American Benevolent Society, Inc. of Corktown, Detroit, Knights of Columbus, and member of the Board of the Fr. Clement H. Kern Foundation.
He enjoyed hunting, fishing, antiquing, music, collecting automobiles, Tiger Baseball, and boating. He especially enjoyed spending time at his homes in Harrisville and the Irish Hills. When not in the Detroit Metro area, Msgr. Russ could often be found celebrating Mass at St. Joseph Shrine in the Irish Hills when called upon.