On March 10 of this year, there was a funeral mass for the late Russell Joseph Camarda, better known as “RJ” by his friends, familyand peers. In his home, with his family by his side, RJ Camarda passed away on Friday, March 5, 2021 at the age of 93.
Camarda was born on June 1, 1927 in New York, where he and his family would endure the Great Depression. By the time he was 18 years old in 1945 and was able to be drafted by the military, RJ was sent to the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Guam part of the 30th Weather Squadron in the Army Air Corps towards the end of World War II.
When the war ended, Camarda decided to go to Florida State University where he would study and get his degree in political science. After graduating in 1950, he moved back to New York City where he would work on Wall Street and start his family. In 1957, Camarda had his first son Jeffery and in 1970, his second son Clifford.
After working on Wall Street for a few years, Camarda began his lifelong career as an educator at North Babylon High School in Long Island where he was the bowling coach and would eventually become assistant principal. During his time at North Babylon, he hired and began dating his future wife of 46 years. With this marriage came his third son Michael in 1985.
In 1983, RJ moved back to Tallahassee because of his desire for 60-degree winters as opposed to the bone-chilling winters of New York — and Florida State Football. With weather experience from the military, Camarda joined the Florida Department of Emergency Management (FDEM) from 1983 to 1993 where he helped found the Governor’s Hurricane Conference which is the largest conference on hurricane preparedness, response and recovery in the United States.
After being gone for several months in 1992 organizing Miami’s recovery from Hurricane Andrew, Camarda retired from the FDEM at the age of 65. A year later he would go back to the career that he left behind in New York and become a history teacher at Maclay School where he would teach for 23 years beside his wife who also worked there.
Maclay put out a statement on Facebook mourning the loss stating:
“We are truly saddened to hear of the passing of long-time history teacher Russ Camarda. Mr. Camarda was one of a kind. Whether acting out a story as a Roman warrior, teaching in his ‘Italian’ accent, or chatting with students in the pod, he made history fun and memorable. Thank you for making an impact on the lives of your students, Mr. Camarda. You will be missed.”