Venice Area Beautification, Inc celebrated Russ Johnson who they refer to as “The Man For All Seasons” with a surprise 80th birthday party.

Bob Vedder kept a long line of members paying tribute to the volunteer to just 5 minutes each.

Some had names for Russ including the “Godfather of Beautification in Venice.”

“There are no pictures of Russ,” Monty Andrews said. “He leaves when the work is done and never sticks around for pictures.”

The list of work by Russ Johnson is long including helping plant more than 200 trees in Venice over the past few years.

Russ installs the lights for the Holiday Parade and the Boat Bash. He designed the butterfly gardens at Venice Gardens and the YMCA. In his red truck, he waters the trees in the Venice Urban Forest.

The group agreed Russ’s major deficit is he just can’t say no. After greetings and accolades everyone sang Happy Birthday and said,: “We love you.”

Annual Tea for more than two

Members of the Epiphany Cathedral Council of Women (CCW) enjoyed music by Loretta Atkinson and Jennifer Butter at their tea. They heard Epiphany Cathedral School principal Mary Caren Heffner “M.C.” Heffner thank the group for their donations and intergenerational projects.

The group introduced new members at the tea and reminded members of upcoming projects including their popular card party on Jan 14.

The tone of the afternoon was warm and welcoming. Bravo CCW.

Holiday Happening

This Saturday, Dec. 14 celebrate Venice Magic at Blalock Park. Starting at 4:45 there will be entertainment by various students at the gazebo followed by the spectacular tree lighting. Bring a chair. The Venice Museum holds an open house from 5 to 7 p.m.

Venice Christmas Magic always includes Santa Claus who takes time out from work at the North Pole to visit Venice.

One of our best

The special person of this week is Russ Johnson the most behind the scenes Venice volunteer in town.

In addition to his work with VABI, Russ is active at the Lemon Bay Playhouse as the box office manager and what ever else they need. He is a docent at the Carlton Preserve.

Russ’s family told that in spite of his volunteering, Russ is always available to house Sparky when the family is traveling. No doubt, hands down Russ Johnson is one of the men who makes Venice a great place to live.

Fran Valencic is the social columnist for the Venice Gondolier Sun. She welcomes your tips and ideas. Contact her at


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