Longtime Venice neighborhood activist and wooden boat owner and restorer Rudolph Axford died September 7th after a lengthy stay at the Veterans Administration Services facility in Brentwood. He was 79.

Axford had many interests and hobbies during his lifetime, which included his wooden sailboat, The Dolph’n, a series of Model A Fords that he often drove and a collection of Julian Ritter artwork.

But his love of Venice was one of his most enduring passions, says Richard Feibusch, a friend.

Axford’s roots trace back to the days of Abbot Kinney’s Venice of America, said Feibusch, when Kinney contracted with Axford’s grandfather, Miguel Lopez, who owned a paving company in Mexico, to make the journey north and pave the streets of the new community Kinney was building at the beginning of the 20th century.

Later, Axford’s grandparents, Miguel and Luisa, moved into a house in Venice where Axford spent many happy summer days as a child, Feibusch says.

His mother, Louisa, married a German mechanic and commercial garage owner and was bringing up the family in Vernon. According to Feibusch, Axford and his five brothers were some of the first California hot rodders, just before World War II.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and was discharged in 1946.

Axford worked at a number of jobs and set up various small businesses, which included real estate, aftermarket auto accessories and trading in fine arts and classic cars.

He was working as a salesman for Ford when the two-seater Thunderbirds were introduced in the mid-1950s, selling them to the many Hollywood stars. Axford met his wife, Buddy Ann, when she was the T-Bird turntable spokesmodel at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 1957.

He returned to Venice and Marina de Rey in the mid-1970s. He bought a run-down house north of Rose Avenue, a few houses south of the Santa Monica border.

“As he slowly remodeled his little one-bedroom cottage, he realized that other neighbors started doing the same, so he organized his neighbors to get the discarded cars off of the lawns and engines and car parts off the parkways,” said Feibusch.

He also helped form the North Venice Community Group, which was one of the first groups to bring shade trees to Venice.

Axford worked with the North Beach Neighborhood Association and Rose Avenue Working Group to improve the quality of life in the Rose Avenue area. He also was a supporter of the late Pearl White and the many projects and plans she envisioned for Oakwood and all of Venice.

A political conservative, Axford often brought a different point of view to the table, especially on the subjects of property rights and unearned entitlements, according to Feibusch.

“He always wanted to see Venice clean, well managed and successful commercially — and was quite pleased with the changes he saw over the last few years,” Feibusch said.

Axford is survived by his children, Randolph and Fern Williams of Marina del Rey, Brandon and Jill Williams of West Los Angeles and Mike and Pandora Wan, who live in Japan.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 2nd, at the Department of Veterans Affairs Los Angeles National Cemetery, 950 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles.