Published: September 21, 2017
ESSEX, MD — Russell Stone (“Russ”) Harrington Jr, born on August 18, 1938, and actively engaged in antique toys since 1963, died September 7 at age 79. He and his wife Sheila began collecting toys shortly after their marriage. It was not long after that that Russ knew there was a need to be filled. He realized that he had a talent for repairing toys and banks. This provided a needed service and a source of extra revenue to buy toys. As his collection expanded, Russ realized another void needed filling — a reliable source for parts. So after buying out the patterns and castings of several predecessors, he established a new endeavor — replacement iron parts. At about the same time, and after 25 years as an electrical supervisor for Bethlehem Steel Corp, Russ decided to leave the steel mill behind and dedicate his full time and energy to the toy business.
After a number of years, trying to juggle the toy shows, repairs, parts business and retailing, Russ decided to turn the casting business over to his son, Michael, who had just graduated from college.
According to the Russ Harrington Antique Toys website, the inventory of patterns runs well into the thousands and the foundry operates five days a week.
Russ was a member of the Antique Toy Collectors of America (ATCA), Train Collectors Association and Mechanical Bank Collectors of America (MBCA). He served on the board of directors of both the MBCA and the ATCA, as well as chairing and serving on several committees within these clubs. He and his wife hosted conventions for these groups.
“Russ was honest, straightforward and very helpful to others who were collecting,” said Don Heim, remembering Russ’s interest in mechanical banks and cast iron horse-drawn toys back in the early 1960s. “He worked at Bethlehem Steel where he learned how to work with iron and later bought many of the original patterns for banks and started creating parts with a foundry in his back yard,” Don said, adding, “He was a great friend to Betty Jo and me, and he will be missed by countless friends.”
“When Pat and I first moved to Pennsylvania, we became good friends with Russ and Sheila, and early in our friendship we were invited to their home for dinner,” recalls Rich Garthoeffner. “They spread paper out on the table and we then had a real crab fest.” He added, “Russ was the go-to person for any repairs needed for cast iron banks or toys as he had all the original patterns to work from. He was an expert craftsman, honest and a collector of horse-drawn cast iron toys.”
“In the early days Russ would come over to our house and help out with some chores and my father, a toy collector, got him interested in toys,” Sandra Whitson said. “Russ later turned his interest into a very successful business and everyone went to him for repairs and parts for cast iron toys and banks. He was a wonderful man. I met him when I was about 10 years old, and he was always Uncle Russ to us.”
In addition to Sheila and Michael and Michael’s wife Patricia, Russ is survived by daughter Lisa Williams and her husband David. He was the loving grandfather of David Williams Jr and his wife Lisa, Allison Williams, Sydney Harrington and Sophie Harrington. He is also survived by his nieces and nephews.
Funeral services were conducted at the family-owned Bruzdzinski Funeral Home in Essex on September 12, with interment at Parkwood Cemetery. Donations in Russell’s name may be made to Middle River Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, Inc, 1100 Wilson Point Road, Middle River MD 21220, or St Matthew Lutheran Church, 3620 Red Rose Farm Road, Baltimore MD 21220.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm