Keith Russell, a rising star in the Jellystone Park network and a strong proponent of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), died unexpectedly over the holidays while visiting with his newest grandchild.

According to a press release, Russell, 65, co-owned and operated the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Horn Lake, Miss., with his wife, Penny. He died Jan. 2.

“I counted Keith as one of my closest friends in the franchise system,” said Rob Schutter, who holds dual roles as ARVC chairman and COO of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), which franchises Jellystone Parks across the country. “I will greatly miss him, his sense of humor and his counsel.”

Russell built his park from scratch in 2007 and joined the Jellystone Park system in 2008. The Russells were named “Rookies of the Year” in 2009 and won Leisure Systems’ Pinnacle awards each of the following years. Their park also won Leisure Systems’ “Facility of the Year” award in 2010 as well as a “Landscaping Award” for park beautification in 2011.

Russell was well respected in the LSI system and was elected to LSI’s Franchise Advisory Board in 2010, just two years after joining the network.

“He was inspiring to the other franchisees,” Schutter said. “People loved to be around him. He was one of those unique individuals who captures your attention.”

Russell is survived by his wife, Penny, his son, Jimmy; his daughters, Holly, Jessica and Amy; and eight grandchildren.