This is a video profile a great American patriot, Dan Russell of San Diego, aka “Gadget Dan”. He was a regular guy, but a great American, too. Dan has spent his entire life serving the public and the nation, nearly every day. He seldom rested. If a fair value was put in the time he donated to various causes, he no doubt donated many tens of thousands of dollars worth of his time plus the cost of his own personal expenses. Gadget Dan passed away on February 27, 2022 after a long battle with cancer. Please pray for Dan and his family. He left a wife, two daughters and siblings.
NOTE: Send me a message via the contact tab above if you need information about the celebration-of-life service for Dan.
He was a Army soldier stationed in Germany, during the height of the cold war, guarding border there in Europe. He came home to become a fireman, get married and raise a loving family. After he retired from the Fire Department, he spent his retirement as a pro-American, political activist. He was interested mainly in border security. Having strong opinions, he had a booming voice, of which he made good use at events, but he was never mean spirited. Dan even ran as an underdog candidate for mayor of San Diego in 1983.
Dan was the lead of the Campo Minutemen, an informal, independent branch of the border Minuteman movement. The base of operations for the Campo Minutemen, Patriot Point was a high hill just next to the border, where a long stretch of open border could be observed. Starting in 2005, the Minutemen camped out for weeks at a time and spotted illegal crossers, reporting them to the Border Patrol dispatcher.
ABC 10 News Report – Dan Exposes Huge Gaps in Border Fence (2018)
Dan was featured in several documentary films. In this clip from “Max Kennedy and the American Dream”, Dan explains how illegal crossers mark the way along the trial into the US. Max Kennedy also worked with the Campo Minutemen.
“Max Kennedy and the American Dream”
Driving Part of the Campo Border Gap (2018)
Dan provided this video to me, not sure if he made it himself or another Minuteman made it, but it is a video of a gap on the Campo section of the border, a few hundred yards west of Patriot Point.
Dan adopted the border near Campo, because it was one of the worst places. He always said he hoped to see the Campo border secured during his lifetime. It was one of the last places to get Trump’s “Border Wall”, but they did build a 30-foot high bollard fence before he had to stop working due to his illness.
It probably will not surprise those who knew him that he still was not quite satisfied with it. He said it still needed certain improvements to prevent some people from still climbing over it. That’s why they called him “Gadget Dan”, though, because he was always developing devices and new ways to make things better. He was never satisfied unless it was perfect.
They used nicknames, too, because it was not entirely safe, what they were doing. Dangerous criminal organizations, the Mexican Cartels, smuggle people and drugs across in Campo, as well as all along the US/Mexican border.
Daily Personal Reports
Dan would send out daily reports about his various activities, often several times during the day. Here is one typical example, repairing a barbed wire fence on the border. In the beginning, decades ago, there was only a barbed wire fence on the border. Even after they put up a better fence it was often there for use as the secondary. The illegal crossers often cut the wire and he would put it back up. It would not stop them, but it would slow them down a little.
A PASSION FOR CLEAN HIGHWAYS
Dan and a couple of other Minutemen adopted sections of local highways and picked up littler on the highways on a daily basis. He did it as a public service, but also because he pointed out that litter was often used to mark trails and for highway pickup locations for illegal border crossers. Illegal border crossers in Campo would be picked up on nearby Highway 94 or Interstate 8. Some called Dan the “Highway Hero”, others just called him an “American hero”.
Tens of thousands of commuters saw his volunteer work cleaning the highways almost daily. When this video was made he had known already for a couple of years that he had a slowly progressing terminal cancer, yet he was still working nearly every day and in good cheer.
TRIBUTE BY USMC SGTMAJ JUAN HIDALGO
Many times, I am asked what is my favorite part of campaigning?
My answer has always been the same.
The great Americans I have been blessed to meet and continue to meet is the best part of campaigning.
Retired fire fighter Dan Russell AKA “Gadget” is one of those great Americans.
He has been removing highway/roadside litter almost daily for over the past 16 years. He has even been called a Highway Hero.
From Campo, CA to San Diego – I-5 (Old Town area), I-8, highway 52, I-15, highway 94, in the Campo area, etc. Totaling well over 100 Tons of litter!
Due to his current physical condition, he has tried to close this litter removal chapter of his life, but, it’s difficult for him to pass by intentional roadside litter.
My friend Gadget is an example of an amazing American that does not simply tell people how much he cares about his community.
For the last 16 years he has been proving that he cares about the community!
I look forward to the many more great Americans I am yet to meet.
Please keep Gadget in prayer and lets all get involved in OUR Community.
Okay, tell them to go to my FB page.
Sergeant Major Juan M. Hidalgo, Jr., USMC- Retired.
DAN’S EARLY YEARS
These are some photos of Gadget Dan as an Army soldier in Germany and with friends in the east County San Diego, during his younger days. He must have always loved East San Diego County, due to its openness and still pristine condition in places.
Dan was interested in Australia or any place where there was natural beauty and clean highways. He he played the Didgeridoo. This was one of the last videos that he sent out in the fall of 2021.
This video was created by his daughter, Denise, her last farewell to her father.
I knew him for about 12 years and he taught me a lot of things about the border in Campo and border issues, in general. Sometimes it seemed like Dan considered me his personal video documentarian. He did a lot of solo events and he would invite me to go along to take video. So, this is my last video project for Gadget Dan Russell. Hope you like it, Dan.