After owner Jeff Russell died Wednesday, members of the community are invited to stop by the restaurant at 913 Chicago Ave. this Thursday.
“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Cross-Rhodes owner and longtime Evanston resident Jeff Russell,” read a message on the Greek restaurant’s Facebook page.
“Jeff was a bright light in our community, a fixture in the neighborhood for decades, and he will be deeply missed by his family, his friends, and the countless customers who passed through the doors of this popular establishment,” the message continued. “His humor, his generosity, his loyalty, and his humanity will never be matched.”
According to another posting on the restaurant’s Facebook page, Russell died early Wednesday Sept. 12 from injuries sustained during an accident. The Evanston Review reports that Russell fell from the second floor landing of his restaurant about a dozen feet to the yard below, and later died from his injuries. The restaurant was closed in memory of Russell on Wednesday, and a voice mail box was full as of late afternoon.
More than 100 people responded to the first posting on the restaurant’s Facebook page, recalling their memories of Russell and family meals at Cross-Rhodes, an Evanston fixture for more than two decades. Many said they loved not just the food but the personal warmth Russell and his staff brought to the business.
“My husband Tony and I first started going to Cross-Rhodes every Friday night when we were new to Evanston and miles away from our family back home in Ohio,” wrote Laura Caplinger Stewart. “Somehow seeing Jeff every week and eating hot Greek fries made us feel closer to home.”
Roxana Espoz said that she, her dad and her sister started eating regularly at Cross-Rhodes after her mother passed away.
“Cross-Rhodes provided us not only good meals, but kindness and joy from the staff. All of that came from Jeff,” she wrote. “He built not just a business, but a sense of community.”
One poster said she remembered Russell pulling quarters out of her ears when she was little, while another recalled what it was like to work for him.
“He was an iconoclast: brilliant and stubborn and funny and warm and generous, and he challenged us all to follow our dreams,” wrote Emilie Beck. “I have so many fond memories of him, from a Champagne tasting tour of Chicago to watching Star Trek in his apartment above the restaurant. He comforted us when we went through painful transitions, and celebrated our accomplishments.”
For all those who would like to share memories of Russell, Cross-Rhodes is hosting a gathering at the restaurant on Thursday, Sept. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m.