Russell L. Mileham
IMOGENE — Russell “Buster” L. Mileham, age 76, of Imogene, Minn., passed away Tuesday evening, Jan. 5, 2021, at his home, with his loving family by his side. A memorial service for Buster will be held 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at Lakeview Funeral Home in Fairmont, Minn. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, masks will be required and the number of attendees will be limited.
Buster was born Dec. 19, 1944, in Elkhart, Ill., the son of Elmer and Lillie (Stratton) Mileham. He attended Lake Fork Elementary School through the eighth grade and continued his education at Mount Pulaski High School, where he graduated with the class of 1963.
Following his graduation, Buster moved with his brother Buddy to Elmore, Minn., where he met JoAnn Terhark. They were married July 3, 1965, and were together for 29 years. They settled in Imogene Minn. and were blessed with four children. After their divorce, they were able to come together for their children when needed and remained friends in later years. Buster had a knack for solving problems and found a calling as a heavy equipment operator and master mechanic. He was a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49. In his earlier years, he worked road construction, playing a part in building I-90. He was present when the two ends met and the golden spike was poured. Buster worked for various companies over the years including Hodgeman’s, All State Paving and Astleford M G Company, Inc. Buster was then recruited by Phillippi Equipment Company/Truck Crane Service where he worked until his retirement. During his time there he became close friends with the owner, Tony Phillippi, who had such confidence in Buster’s abilities that he called him out of retirement many times. He was always up for a challenge and never hesitated when called upon with a new project or problem to be solved. When other mechanics would claim the job couldn’t be done because they didn’t have the parts, the shop foreman would say “Send Russ, he can fix it with nothing.” Buster enjoyed designing and fabricating his many ideas. When Buster was not working, he enjoyed many hobbies including playing music. Although his favorite instruments were the fiddle, the guitar and the mandolin, there wasn’t a stringed instrument he couldn’t play. He enjoyed going to bluegrass festivals. He played with many bands including “The Country Sir” and at one point had a band of his own that he called “Buster and The String Alongs.” He also had a passion for flying and earned his private pilot’s license. He enjoyed taking his family up and “running over the clouds.” He liked the advantage of flying to Illinois to visit family since it only took two and a half hours to get there at a time when driving was nearly nine. Buster was proud to play a part in restoring a Grumman Albatross, a Korean-era search and rescue plane which saw combat service in the U.S. Air Force. Buster enjoyed hunting coon, rabbits, and squirrels. He was well versed with bee keeping, loved old gas engines, old tractors, going to threshing bees and riding his Harleys. Buster enjoyed antiques of all kinds. His 1920s era cook stove was his definition of home. He always wanted bacon and eggs made on that stove and cooked many holiday turkeys in its oven. Buster loved children, seeing them smile and hearing their laughter, he would always say “there isn’t a better sound on earth.” He appreciated a good joke and loved to share his many jokes with others. Buster never met a stranger and was always willing to help others in need. “Yeah Buddy!” Left to cherish his memory are his children, Russ (Andrea) Mileham of Brookings, S.D., Kris (Dion) VonBank of Ceylon, Minn., Debi (Kevin) Koep of Alexandria, Minn., Tim (Niki) Mileham of Granada, Minn.; grandchildren, Christopher (Meghan) Stromberg, Taylor (Jacob) Fenner, Michelle (Jon) Dykstra, Derek VonBank, Dylan VonBank, Tyler (Katie) Koep, Tanner Koep, Madison Mileham, Madisen Lewis, Wyatt Lewis and Levi Lewis; seven great-grandchildren; two brothers, Eddie Mileham of Riverton, Ill., and Dean Mileham of Elkhart, Ill.; two sisters, Velma (Vernon) Burt of Guckeen, Minn., and Alma Walker of Forest City, Iowa; as well as many other extended family and friends. Buster was preceded in death by his parents, Elmer and Lillie Mileham; father-in-law and
mother-in-law, Chris and Meta Terhark; brothers, Elmer “Bud” Lee Mileham, and Harry “Buddy” Mileham; sister, Mary Alice Hotchkiss; brother-in-law, Marvin Walker; sisters-in-law, Alberta “Bunnie” Mileham, and Margaret Mileham. www.lakeviewfuneralhome.net