Biographical Information:

Dates: 1915 -2006Dates in Ridgefield: 1915 -2006
history, journalismstoryteller, newspaper columnist, Ridgefield historian, postmaster, town official, dairyman, percussionist
Every era has its grand storyteller, and for the last third of the 20th Century, Ridgefield's surely was Richard E. Venus. He came to epitomize the way Ridgefield was during most of its nearly 300 years--a small town made up of kind and gentle people who participated in all aspects of their community; who enjoyed their fellow-townspeople; and who loved a good story. Born in 1915 on northern Main Street, Venus grew up listening to the many stories of adults, tales told in an era before radio or TV, tales he never forgot. He became a master storyteller, enchanting countless people with his recollections of the days when Ridgefield was dotted with the summer estates of wealthy New Yorkers and of the many fascinating people who worked as their servants, gardeners, and chauffeurs. Many of those anecdotes were recorded in his monumental series, “Dick's Dispatch,” 366 columns published in The Ridgefield Press between March 1982 and November 1988 (collected, bound and indexed at the Ridgefield Library). As a boy, he had a large newspaper route that included The Press. In 1928, when he was only 13, he went to work on Conklin's Dairy Farm before and after school, and later worked there fulltime. "I always loved horses and drove a team, plowing fields and mowing hay," he recalled. When tractors took over from horses, he transferred to the retail part of the milk business. Later, he became superintendent of Dr. Royal C. Van Etten's 87-acre Hillscroft Farm on St. John's Road. In the 1950s, he operated Dic-Rie Dairy (named for Dick and his wife, Marie), delivering milk to many households. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named him postmaster of Ridgefield, a job he held for 21 years, longer than any person before or since. A lifelong Democrat, Mr. Venus served three terms as a selectman and ran twice unsuccessfully for First Selectman against the popular--and Republican--Leo F. Carroll. He served on the Historic District Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and was a leader in or member of a dozen community organizations, including Kiwanis, Boys Club, and Knights of Columbus. From the mid-1980s, Mr. Venus was Ridgefield's town historian, so appointed by the governor, and was active in the Ridgefield Archives Committee; it’s safe to say that no one knew more about Ridgefield than he did. And if that wasn't enough, he played in the Ridgefield Boys Band in the 1920s and was drummer for his own Mayflower Swing Band, organized in 1934, which played throughout the area for many years. Dick Venus saw the town change a lot from his childhood, but he never stopped loving it and its people. "It's grown too fast," he said in 2000. "We weren't prepared for it.... There are a lot of nice people who have moved into Ridgefield, and there are others-- it'll take them a little time to get acclimated. My mother always taught me to tip my hat and smile at people. With some, if you do that, they'll glare at you like you're crazy, but they'll get along. They'll get the swing of things before they're through. Most everybody who comes through Ridgefield stays, if they can. Ridgefield is a great town."
--Source: Notable Ridgefielders–Jack Sanders
Check the library catalog for titles by this author.