Russel Carl Fleeman of Monroe, La., died in his sleep Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, of complications from pneumonia. He was born May 12, 1918 at home in the country outside Manila, Ark. The sixth and youngest child of Horace Mack and Ollie Burton Fleeman of Manila, Russel was preceded in death by his brothers, Fred, Charles and Eugene Fleeman, and by his sisters, Hazel Meyer and Nellie Townsend. Russel was also preceded in death by his wife, Virginia Ann Ross.
Russel was an energetic businessman all of his life. His enterprising spirit was first cultivated in Manila and Blytheville, Ark., where as a teenager and into his early twenties, he farmed, traded crops and livestock, owned and operated produce trucks, owned a Studebaker car dealership, and bought the first of the airplanes he would own for more than 50 years. In his twenties, Russel moved to Lake Providence, La., where he continued farming as he expanded into home building, land clearing, sheep and cattle ranching, a livestock yard, and crop dusting. He also co-owned and organized the Miss Louisiana Pageant which was first held in Lake Providence. Like the pageant, Russel later moved to Monroe where he grew Fleeman Flying Service into one of the premier FBOs in the country. Beechcraft, Cessna and Piper aircraft sales, avionics, engine maintenance, parts sales, charter operations, air ambulance, fuel sales and flight training were integral operations of the company which later changed its name to Fleeman Aviation. Russel was instrumental in the formation of the aviation degree programs at Northeast Louisiana State College in Monroe and the Louisiana Polytechnic Institute in Ruston, and at one point, pilots with every major airline in the United States had trained at Fleeman Aviation in Monroe. His many investments in Monroe included an aviation insurance company and American Bank & Trust where he served on the board of directors for many years and continued to serve on the advisory board after it was purchased by Regions Bank.
Russel loved life. For many years, he enjoyed hosting friends and colleagues on his houseboats. If he was not
cruising on the Ouachita River, Russel was likely socializing, dining, or traveling with friends. Baptized at First Baptist Church in West Monroe, Russel also loved hosting a weekly men's prayer group at his home and sharing his faith in Christ.
Russel is survived by his adopted son, Carter Mills, and wife Catherine Davison Mills, his granddaughters, Martha and Virginia Grace Mills of Choudrant, La., and by his nephews, Woody Townsend and wife Nena, Mackey J. Fleeman and wife Bobbie, and Paul W. Fleeman and wife June, all of Manila, Ark.
Dr. David Uth will officiate the funeral service at Feazel Chapel at First Baptist Church of West Monroe under the direction of Kilpatrick Funeral Home. Visitation will begin in the chapel at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 29, and the service will follow at 2 p.m. Afterwards, interment will occur at the Mulhearn Park Cemetery Mausoleum in Monroe.
Pallbearers will be Ronny Boyd, James Davison, Karl Kaufman, Conway Liner, Dinky Liner, John Pilgreen, Woody Townsend and Dr. Ronald Woods.
Memorial donations may be made to First Baptist Church of West Monroe, 500 Pine Street, West Monroe, La. 71291.