When Did Bill Russell’s First Wife Rose Swisher Die? Her Bio In Detail

By Anuja Uprety | Published on: February 18, 2024 | Updated on: February 18, 2024
Facts checked by editors at A-List Arena
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Rose Swisher was the first wife of the late American professional basketball player Bill Russell. The couple tied the knot in 1956 and together welcomed three children. They remained married for almost two decades before calling it quit in 1973.

Post their divorce, her ex-husband Bill married 3 more times but Swisher hardly talked about her love life. Because of her ultra-low-key life, there have been queries like if Rose is still alive or dead. Find the truth in the following article.

Key Takeaways

  • Rose Swisher died at the age of 78 on 11 September 2014.
  • Bill Russell’s wife of 17 years was an activist. She voiced for black people and also worked as a model.
  • Rose was the mother of three. Her eldest son died of cancer 2 years after her death.
  • Her ex-husband Bill is also no longer alive.

Is Still Alive? If Yes, Where Is She Today?

Well, Rose is not alive as of now. She passed away on 11 September 2014 in King County, Washington, USA. At the time of her death, Swisher was 78 years old.

On the other hand, her famous ex-spouse Bill Russell died peacefully at the age of 88 on 31 July 2022 in Mercer Island, King County. His body was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle.

Bill Russell’s First Wife Rose Studied Nurse At College

Rose was born Rose Katherine Swisher Russell to Afro-American parents on 21 July 1936 in Austin, Travis County, Texas. However, there isn’t a single detail about her mom and dad.

As for education, Swisher studied at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, a public university in San Luis Obispo. She reportedly was a nursing student at Cal Pol.

Was A Model And An Activist

Rose worked as a model during her youthful days, becoming one of the first black supermodels of the time. During the 1950s and 60s, Swisher modeled for Maybelline Cosmetics and also was featured on the cover of Ebony Magazine.

In addition to modeling, Rose also was also an activist. During her time, the American community was highly driven by racial differences and Rose as a feminist and activist tried her best to make a change and voice against indifferences. Back on April 4, 2023, her daughter Karen talked about her mom’s involvement in a social cause and the pain she endured on Twitter and wrote,

My Mom ALWAYS came home in tears after going to her feminist meetings with White Women.

Bill Russell's ex-wifeRose was an activist
Rose together with her then-husband in March of Washington. Source: Instagram

The late celebrity ex-wife had also participated in the March of Washington several times along with her popular spouse Bill.

And Bill Russell Were Married For 17 Years

On December 9, 1956, Rose walked down the aisle with her husband Bill Russel. The couple got married at the Taylor Methodist Church in Oakland among 300 attendees. After their grand wedding, they went to Carmel, California to celebrate their honeymoon.

Rose was the first wife of Bill Russell
Rose on her wedding day with her groom

The same year they walked down the aisle, Rose’s husband Bill was signed with Boston Celtics, so, the married duo reached straight to Boston after their honeymoon and settled there.

They Divorced in 1973

Swisher and her then-hubby Russell had a great married life together for the first decades but as time passed, their relationship started deteriorating. And the two amicably divorced in 1973, 17 years after their nuptial.

Sources reported the two went their separate ways due to some personal issues. Rose was a very principled activist, whereas her spouse Russel was moody, demanding, and sometimes inconsiderate as well.

How Did Rose and Russell First Meet? 

The former duo first had their meeting at the University dance. After that, they became friends and started to talk to each other. Bill later also discovered that his girlfriend Rose was the niece of his favorite high school teacher Earl Swisher.

In fact, Rose was the first person Bill seriously fell for. He once even addressed her as ‘the finest person’ he ever met in his life.

Did Remarry After Her Divorce From Bill?

As per the information, Rose remained single till her last breath. After her divorce, she continued as a working woman and also followed the path of Buddhism. In 1987, in an article entitled Growing Up With Privilege and Prejudice, her daughter Karen opened up on her post-divorce life and wrote,

After my parents separated, my mother explored a variety of occupations. She now lives as a practicing Buddhist in a small town in California, where, because of her friendly and sympathetic nature, the whole community knows her by name.

On the contrary, her former spouse experienced three more weddings.

Swisher’s Ex-Husband Married Three More Times; Who Were His Wives?

4 years after their divorce, the Boston Celtics legend married Miss USA of 1968, Dorothy Anstett for the second time. Their marriage lasted for 12 years and they divorced in 1980. Again in 1996, he got hitched with his third wife Marilyn Nault. They were together until Marilyn’s death in January 2009.

Talking about his fourth wife, she was Jeannine Russell. Jeannine was by his side till his death in 2022.

Was A Mother Of Three

Together with her ex-hubby, Rose welcomed three children altogether. The couple were the parents of two sons William Felton Jr and Jacob Russell and a daughter Karen Kenyatta Russell.

Rose birthed three children
Rose’s daughter Karen with her dad

Her eldest son William, born on November 2, 1957, was a driver at Cox Trucking. On 25 Jan 2016, he died of cancer at the age of 58. He was survived by his life partner Sherrill Hansen and his son Sean Tyler Russell.

Further, Rose’s other son Jacob comparatively has a low-key life. He is living privately together with his wife Sara. Her only daughter Karen, 61 is a media person, lawyer, columnist, and black-right activist.

In one of the articles written by Karen, she described her mom as an “extremely creative and outgoing lady.”

Her Ex-Hubby Was Millionaire 

Rose’s former spouse, Bill had an estimated net worth of $10 million when he died in 2022. His fortune was distributed among his two alive children Karen and Jacob and his last wife Jeannine.