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Nature 19


Doris Baugher Russell

May 9, 1920 ~ November 18, 2018 (age 98)

DORIS BAUGHER RUSSELL was a long time Ellicott City resident, a noted national seniors swimming champion “Madame Butterfly”, a contract bridge enthusiast and mother of eight.

A national age group champion swimmer from age 70 thru her late nineties she garnered scores of gold medals setting national records all along the way. In her Ellicott City home of more than 50 years medals and trophies she has won spilled out of the drawers, gathered in boxes and hung from door knobs. In 2016 at age 96 she was named to the U.S. Masters Pool Swimming All American Team. She claimed swimming was her “fountain of youth.”

Born and raised in the Forest Park section of Baltimore City Doris was introduced to competitive swimming early by her father and Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame member William Harry Baugher.  She attended and swam for Notre Dame Preparatory School and the then Penn Hall Academy as well as the Knights of Columbus and KC Lakers swim teams. She was later named to the Notre Dame Prep Athletic Hall of Fame.

It was thru swimming that she first met and later married her husband Jimmy Russell, himself a national champion springboard diver.  They once hobnobbed at the old Meadowbrook Swim Club with Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weismuller, Hollywood’s most famous Tarzans. They even continued their swimming and diving competition and swimming exhibitions (at numerous east coast country clubs including regularly at Fred Waring’s Shawnee, PA resort) into their 40’s while raising eight children, all of whom became competitive swimmers or divers themselves.  

The family moved to Ellicott City in 1965 and joined the North St. Johns Swim Club in summers.  They also took over and ran, as an athletic center throughout the 1960’s, the former Jewish Community Center facility on West Monument Street in Baltimore.

Jimmy Russell passed away in 1983. With their kids grown Doris, at the time a county school bus driver, took solace practicing several times a week at the Columbia Swim Center and competing in the freestyle stroke at all distances, including the Chesapeake Bay swim. She added the difficult “butterfly” stroke to her repertoire at age 70 competing in major national meets from Syracuse to San Antonio. It was her tenacity in taking on the challenge of this stroke at his time in her life that earned her the affectionate moniker “Madame Butterfly.” “Doris is incredible” said Nancy Brown one of Doris’s coaches on the Maryland Masters Swimming Team.  “People cheer when she finishes a race, though she gets upset at that. She’s very low-key about her accomplishments.”

“To watch Doris swim is truly awesome,” said Corey Woo, general manager of the Columbia Swim Center. In her later years standing at 5 ft Doris acknowledged having lost 4 inches in height, “I have to swim a couple of extra strokes on each lap because I’ve shrunk.”

In addition to her swimming Doris was a lifelong avid contract bridge player.  In addition to playing with a number of social bridge groups, up until her late nineties she played in bridge tournaments with the Catonsville and Ellicott City Bridge Groups at their monthly gatherings at the “Trolley Stop” and later at Kelsey’s restaurant.

Doris was a daily communicant at the Church of the Resurrection and Bon Secours Retreat Center. Survivors include her eight children, six of her seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.




Donations may be made to:

Matthew J. Russell Scholarship, c/o Loyola Blakefield
P.O. Box 6819, Towson MD 21285-6819

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