With being a star LSU football player and a fighter jet pilot checked off his list, Russ tackled his next dream, that of being a trial lawyer. A 1983 Honor graduate of St. Mary’s University Law School, where he made lifelong friends, Russ started his career with Benckenstein, Norvell, Bernsen & Nathan in Beaumont, TX and quickly earned the reputation as one of the best trial lawyers in the country. Double Board Certified, Russ was considered by his peers as a ‘lawyer’s lawyer’ – respected by judges and feared by opposing counsel.
Russ had the rare gift of connecting with juries, trying over 150 jury trials to verdict. Russ had the intellect of Einstein and a small town common man’s humble heart, authentically caring for all those he met, and that quality shined brightest through the tremendous success he achieved for decades in the courtroom. Russ loved trying cases! His natural and quick sense of humor would often bring a respectful smile from a judge and an appreciative laugh from a juror. Russ was always friendly, never mean. Often, after winning a big trial, Russ would grin and invite the opposing lawyer to go share a cold beer. A man of verve. A friend to all.
Russ also found true professional happiness at the Beaumont law firms of Hilliard & Heald, Adams & Heald, and for these past 2 years, the Corpus Christi law firm Hilliard, Martinez, & Gonzales (HMG), where he mentored dozens of young attorneys, always reminding them to keep a healthy perspective, never forget how to laugh and, while prior preparation and working hard is essential, to always enjoy what you’re doing. He truly loved working at HMG law firm.
During his adventurous life, Russ also found time to be an Adjunct Professor at Lamar University for 12 years, to be a Catholic Prison Ministry Participant and a Church Lector, to be a coach for many little league teams and to write a book, The Wrong Case. More importantly, he always found time to be a wonderful husband and the best Dad he could be to Nick, Jeff and Sean.
Russ was quick to tell those nearest him that meeting and marrying his beautiful wife Maria, changed everything – but that was unnecessary information, because all those who saw Russ with Maria immediately understood their full and total devotion towards each other, and their beautifully deep bond.
Russ & Maria both loved God’s gift of grandchildren. ‘Mimi’ and ‘Grandaddy’ would stream all of super star Hannah’s Ohio soccer games, and always asked for more facetime with young Allie and Jackson. At the beach with his family, Russ would always be in the water teaching his sons and grandchildren the skills of body-surfing, boogie-boarding with them, tossing them higher into the water, and building amazing sandcastles with them. He loved spending time with his family at the beach!
Maria’s unconditional love allowed Russ to thrive even more professionally, to deepen his Catholic faith, and, during his yearlong battle with cancer, to be comforted completely by Maria’s constant and quiet strength. She never left his side during this battle, especially during his last days and hours. Maria was constantly holding his hand, hugging him, playing his favorite Catholic hymns softly, and standing for endless hours by his home hospital bed through the long nights, praying every prayer she knew. After his last breath, as she continued to hold her still husband’s hand, through quiet tears, Maria whispered, ‘you are the love of my life.’
Russ was a treasure to us all – a man who genuinely loved people – gregarious and kind, athletic and intelligent, gentle and strong – and devoutly Catholic. Loved and deeply admired by his three sons, Nick, Jeff and Sean, Russ was their hero, their inspiration, their role model, and truly their Best Friend.
Russ is preceded in death by his parents, Howard and Ruth Heald.
Russ is survived by his wife, Maria Heald; his three sons, Nick Heald, and daughter-in-law Brandi, Jeff Heald, and Sean Heald; his grandchildren, Hannah Heald, Alexandra Heald, and Jackson Heald; also by his brother, Howard Heald and sister-in-law Trish.
Having the distinguished honor to serve as pallbearers are, Sean Heald, Jacob Bullock, Royce Huffman, Don Lighty, Alex Hilliard and Greg Messina.
Visitation will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 29, 2021 at Seaside Funeral Home Chapel with a Rosary to be recited at 7:00 p.m. that same evening. A Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 a.m. at Corpus Christi Cathedral with an Entombment with Military Honors to follow at Seaside Memorial Park.
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