Second Time Around

Second Time Around


On their wedding day in 2011

On their wedding day in 2011

In July 2013, Gary (attended ’75–’78) and Patti (BA, Sociology, ’79; BA, Political Science, ’79) Russ celebrated their second wedding anniversary and Gary’s 60th birthday in Russia on a Viking Rover Cruise. Their unique story started 38 years ago, when they were both students at Chico State. Before their trip, Gary shared some of their story with Chico Statements:

I clearly remember my first minutes in Chico, riding down Broadway Street with my window rolled down, looking at the bank marquis: 115 degrees!

That hot August day, I carried my stuff up to my Whitney Hall dorm room, sat on my bed, and looked out the window. I was in college! All my part-time jobs, miles driven on highways, all my failings and successes had led me here. 

The first night I met many great kids and saw the most beautiful girl I had ever seen: long brunette hair, blue eyes, silky skin, freckles. Her name was Patti Hanna, and she soon became my girlfriend—until the day I left for the University of North Dakota on a student exchange program. 

Thankfully, I made it back to the warm spring of Chico. Patti and I were done, sort of. I carried on another semester and then left school to work at Madison Bear Garden. After a year, I hopped a freight train out of Oroville and zigzagged to Austin, Texas, where I arrived in 1978 with 38 cents in my pocket. 

Patti and Gary in 1975

Patti and Gary in 1975

But I did OK for myself. I attended the University of Texas and learned photography. I eventually owned the largest photo studio in central Texas. I got married and had two boys. But life always seems to shake things up.

At 56, I found myself raising two teenagers on my own. Forging on, I emailed Patti. She told me she, too, was going through a divorce. A week later we met in Dallas, and it was like no time had passed. She soon moved to Austin, and two years later we got married. 

I didn’t know what I would find in Chico when I arrived, but I can happily report I found my way, my life, my wife, and myself. Decades have clicked off, but my experiences at Chico State still define me. And when I see my sweet wife in the morning, I see her as I did my first day at Whitney Hall: beautiful, bright, joyful, full of life and hope. What more could a kid ask of his alma mater?

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Alum Notes

Terris McMahan Grimes

Terris McMahan Grimes

(BA, English, ’72) publishes novel set in West Oakland in 1964.

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Matt Petersen

(BA, Political Science, ’90) is LA’s first chief sustainability officer.

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Leland Gordon

Leland Gordon

(BA, Journalism, ’06) is editor of MaxPreps.com, a CBS high school sports site.

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