Gustave Otto Richard Reusch (known as Richard) was born in the Volga German colony of Bettinger (Baratayevka) in the Samara region of Russia on 31 October 1891. His family moved to Pyatigorsk in the Northern Caucasus in 1897, and then to Vladikavkaz in 1904. He was sent to live at the Imperial Cadet Corps in Tiblisi and attended a military high school. Reusch eventually became a Cossack officer in 1911 serving on the Persian border, but he left his military duty to pursue a theology degree at the Imperial University of Dorpat (Tartu), Estonia. He graduated during 1916 and was ordained on Easter 1917. One year later, Reusch fought against the Bolsheviks rising to power in Russia and escaped to Germany.
In 1921, Reusch became a missionary for the British, and by 1923, he was working with the Augustana Synod. While in the Tanganyika territory he climbed Kilimanjaro’s Kibo peak a rumored fifty times, and founded the East African Mountain Club. He is also known for his heroism against “man-eating lions,” getting struck by lightning, and escaping from various sticky situations. Reusch married Elveda Aurora Bonander on 11 December 1927 in Marangu, Tanganyika. They had three daughters: Betty Ruth (Reusch) Anderson (24 September 1929), Ingrid Eleanor (Reusch) Hoerler (19 June 1931), and Dagmar Evelyn (Reusch) Philbrook (27 October 1932). He was accepted into the Augustana Minesterium in 1938.
Reusch began teaching at Gustavus Adolphus College in 1947, and Augustana Theological Seminary awarded him an honorary doctorate degree during May 1948. In 1948 he was granted U.S. citizenship, and served another missionary term with the Maasai people in Tanganyika. During 1954, Reusch returned to Gustavus, and after 1963, he taught as an emeritus associate professor. Reusch died of cancer in 1975 and was buried at Stacy, Minnesota.
*Some material taken from Daniel H. Johnson’s presentation, Rev. Dr. Gustavovich Reusch (1891-1975).