Riley Kirk
Sam Penley



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Russell Wilbur grew up in Waterville Maine. At the age of fifteen he dropped out of school and began working at a chicken plant and shining shoes. Russell faced a lot of hard times with his family for his mother was mentally ill, physically and mentally abusive and his siblings were all very homophobic. With a difficult childhood and unsupportive family Russel began to drink to cover up the pain of his childhood. During this time Russell began to sell drugs which resulted in him going to prison for a year. In 1975 Russel became clean and sober and began to go to AA. Russell left AA after he came out to the group and was told that they don’t want his kind there. To escape his reputation Russell moved from Waterville to Portland Maine, where he began to live as himself, an out gay man. When he left for Portland, he cut all ties with his family.

While beginning his new life in Portland Russell had two major relationships. Russell was fascinated by the education he never had and felt dumb for never getting his GED. Russell was a very hard worker and both of his relationships exploited him financially. Once Russell broke it off with both of those individuals, he gained empowerment from being single and has continued to be single for the last twenty years. Once Russell was single, he began his own cleaning company known as “Sparkle”. As time went on Russell developed many health problems which has resulted in him being disabled for the last ten years. During these hard times Russell found peace in painting frames of pictures. With painting frames came, Russell’s joy of gender bending every year in the Portland Pride Parade. This is the one day of year Russell always looks forward to enjoying with the LGBTQ+ community. Russell has a fascinating story filled many ups and downs but prides himself on keeping a sense of humor and a positive attitude throughout it all.

Please cite as: Querying the Past: LGBTQ Maine Oral History Project Collection, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer+ Collection, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Libraries.

For more information about the Querying the Past: Maine LGBTQ Oral History Project, please contact Dr. Wendy Chapkis.


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USM Special Collections


Portland, Maine


Maine, Waterville, Portland, LGBTQA, coming out, gay bars, dating, Portland Pride Parade, discrimination, prison, Alcoholic Anonymous, AIDS/HIV


History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Oral History | Women's Studies

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Wilbur, Russell



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