Russ Schaffenberg

Profile Updated: September 22, 2019
Russ Schaffenberg
Residing In: Bloomington, MN USA
Spouse/Partner: Colleen O'Keefe
Occupation: retired chemist and musician, now a botanist
Children: Jennifer born in 1970, grandchildren Margo and Mia are in their teens.
Military Service: US Army Reserve 1970-76  
Yes! Attending Reunion

Right after high school I had to get married and was divorced 3 years later. Colleen and I were married in '96, the same year I suddenly acquired adult-onset Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. Life changing, pain in the ass, always checking my blood sugar, injecting insulin and getting the next meal cued up, but things improved recently when I got a CGM (continuous glucose monitor).

Since Franklin elementary I played drums in Mr. Berg's band class, then Apitz, Wornson, Miller and I had a band and I think won the junior high talent show. I played into high school then quit for a few years during my first marriage. After that, Selsvold and Tryhus started a band so I started playing again. After graduating MSU and moving to the cities I continued playing with a series of bands, from original rock to top 40 to country, sometimes 20+ nights a month, commuted to Mankato and played a couple years with City Mouse. Craving more contact with nature, I quit playing in '91 and bought a lake cabin in northern Wisconsin near the Namekagon and St. Croix rivers where I love to paddle.

I graduated MSU, moved to the cities and became an Analytical Chemist with Midwest Research Institute, performing trace environmental analysis by gas chromatography for pesticides, herbicides, etc. for EPA projects nationwide, and also developed new methods for the EPA. After a few years I joined a new local consulting lab, brought my experience with me and we became the first EPA approved lab in this region for these advanced capabilities. We did most of the major environmental projects in this region during these years.

At MRI I met a group of chemists working on reverse osmosis technology who split off, started a new company called FilmTec, had an amazing new patent, were expected to grow rapidly and needed advanced analytical to support the business, so I quit environmental consulting and went into the membrane business. We grew rapidly, became the world leader and were bought by Dow Chemical. I managed the lab for 16 years and retired in '01.

I also had a Biology degree, loved to wander around in scenic and beautiful natural landscapes, studied botany and limnology and nearly had a career in the natural resource field. I hated chemistry labs which were boring and uninspiring, but thanks to my night job at the Honeymead lab, I found I liked it and was very good at it. So after choosing chemistry for my career (it looked like it paid much better), I always planned to retire early and then study the flora. I bought microscopes, many reference books, served on the Board of the Minnesota Native Plant Society, did volunteer work for the DNR, studied the flora full time, collecting and pressing any plant I didn't know and keying them out over the winter until I knew every plant I found. I began to locate more and more rare species, many aquatic and wetland species, which led to more and more as I expanded my search. I did some projects for the County and the State, have surveyed over 100 lakes just in Burnett County, but mainly just wandered around on my own and have thus far documented ~300 populations representing ~30 rare species (Special concern, Threatened, Endangered). I have submitted ~500 specimens to the Wisconsin Herbarium, at least half have been entered into the data base and can be searched online.

More than anything, I am and have always been an organic gardener, will do this as long as I am able, have very strong environmental values and promote a simple life close to nature. I'm kind of an urban homesteader, grow lots of blooms for the critters and for beauty, lots of fruits and vegetables which I freeze, can and store to use all year long, share with friends and donate to the local food shelf.

Colleen and I are dog people, love our small terriers.

School Story:

Sleeping in Bruce Depew's algebra class: He was a really nice person but one day was tired of me always sleeping, drew a circle on the black board and had me put my nose in it and stand there for a while. The grease spot never went away.

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