Not so long ago a young woman from Star Valley, Wyom., spent her time growing up with four brothers. Each of them being wrestlers, they did not hesitate to include her in their rough housing. Natalie focused her energy on the more refined skills related to dance, but she is a more capable wrestler than you might expect.
Little did she know that only 70 miles northwest of her hometown, Russ Tibbitts was growing up tending cattle on his family farm in Rigby, Idaho. Russ spent nearly every day including Saturdays working on the farm. Perhaps it was during these moments where his sense of humor and personality took shape. He became known as the family prankster and, as comes with the territory, often took blame for things whether justified or not. Fortunately, Russ could tap into his superpowers to help neutralize sticky situations.
The following anecdote emphasizes Russ’s role in his family. Christmas morning gifts for the children would be organized in individual piles. Russ had five brothers and one sister so there were a lot of piles. The brothers devised a plan to pull one over on Russ. They woke before Russ on Christmas morning, taking his presents, and disbursing them among their own piles. Russ entered the living room and discovered his pile was nowhere to be found. As any young boy would feel in this situation, he was really mad. After a while, his brothers took compassion and returned his presents, to which Russ then asked, “Where are the rest of them?” To this day he still believes he did not get all his presents back.
Eventually Russ served a mission for the LDS church to Mendoza, Argentina. Russ and Natalie met while enrolled at Ricks College, now BYU-Idaho. Natalie was contemplating a mission when through mutual friends she went on a sledding trip with Russ. It happened to be New Year’s Day, and a new beginning was certainly in the works. Russ and Natalie quickly became friends. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1993.
Russ continued his education at BYU, earning a degree in recreation management and youth leadership. He went on to complete his Master’s degree at the University of Utah in educational psychology and instructional design.
Russ and Natalie now have six children. KT is the oldest and just received his mission call to New Zealand. He is followed by Anna, Jake, Hyrum, Emma, and Abby. Russ and Natalie proudly claim their family is weirder than anyone else’s. They can just as easily be found playing “king of the mountain” as they can simply hanging out and talking. Family time is a top priority in the Tibbitt household.
Years ago the Tibbitts lived in Saratoga Springs when the area was still surrounded by expansive fields. The area soon became crammed with houses, and Russ and Natalie yearned to reconnect with their country upbringing. As is often the case with those searching to leave behind the city atmosphere, they started driving around and discovered Morgan. Falling in love with the valley, they arranged their affairs to make Morgan their new home.
The Tibbitts family is an active family. Both Natalie and Russ enjoy biking. Russ loves to hike to the “M” for inspiration. Although she has never owned one, Natalie has always loved horses. She also is drawn to all things related to the ocean—the sand, the beach—really just being by the ocean. In addition to a general love of sports, Russ has stumbled into other lesser-known interests as well. For example, after taking a class at BYU, he demonstrated quite the aptitude as a tap dancer. The advanced coordination continues in his ability to juggle and culminates in the technically difficult feat of blowing spit bubbles.
This last one may have been influenced by all the time he spends with today’s youth. Russ is a seminary teacher with a remarkable gift for relating to the rising generation. He loves the youth and teaching about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is beloved by those he teaches and has inspired many teenagers in this community while teaching in the local seminary. Russ now spreads his talents to the students at Northridge High School, where he is currently teaching seminary. His knowledge of the gospel and ability to teach has helped him as he serves those around him. He has been serving as a bishop and was recently called to the stake presidency. He is extremely humbled with this opportunity, but also excited to be out helping people.