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Bob and Susan Vedder by a flower fountain in Venice

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Flower Power

Retired Publisher Beautifies Downtown Venice with Love and Flowers

Venice has a funny way of bringing out the best in people. Take our own beloved Bob Vedder, who quickly into his retirement finally became a real "flower child." On a recent stroll along downtown’s Miami Avenue, Bob, 74, was happy to point out all the lovely and colorful blooms dotting the sidewalk in pots and planters.

“Here we have pentas, lantana, coleus, Ti sisters,” he says. “When we first started the flower project, it was an idea I had from my travels with my wife. We saw all the pretty flowers in downtowns around the country and in Europe, and I wanted to do that here. We started with hanging baskets, and now we have pots and even fountains filled with flowers.”

Bob’s flower power eventually led to the creation of the Bloom Team, part of the larger beautification work of Venice Area Beautification, Inc. Bob sits on the VABI board, just one of his many philanthropic interests.

“Venice is very much a hometown with lots of local spirit,” he says. “We have a tremendous amount of volunteerism, and we support our nonprofits enormously. It’s a true sense of community that we have here in Venice.”

Now counted among Venice’s greatest cheerleaders, Bob first came to town via serendipity. Forty years ago this year, Bob had just left a demanding position as the Wall Street Journal’s national production manager in Princeton, New Jersey, when he took a call from Derek Dunn-Rankin, co-owner of the Venice Gondolier Sun. Dunn-Rankin needed help managing the Gondolier, and Bob, with his wife, Susan, and two young sons in tow, agreed to come down and help out on a temporary basis. That "temporary" basis turned into an influential 31-year career as the Gondolier’s general manager and publisher. Known all around town as just "Bob," he wrote weekly columns that examined Venice’s social and political life, drawing out the issues in a way that attracted readers and helped the paper grow. The direction he brought to the Gondolier led it to being regularly recognized as the best weekly paper in the state by the Florida Press Association and Florida Press Club.

“Being publisher of the Gondolier was my favorite job,” Bob says. “The ability to make a difference was really special. It fit perfectly with the kind of person I am.”

Inducted into the Florida Press Association Journalism Hall of Fame in 2013, Bob has spent the years since his 2010 retirement serving as president of many charitable organizations in town; starting up the Rotary Futures College Resource Center at the Venice High School; enjoying his five grandchildren; and traveling with Susan, who still works for Sun Coast Media in human services. Of course, beautifying downtown with splashes of riotous color is high among his passions.

“There are so many great flowers,” he says. “This time of year, we start putting out the petunias, our winter flowers, our prettiest flowers. When I started the flower project, it was just me. I wrote the letters and raised the money. Venice has a great giving spirit. Venice always wants to make itself a better place to live.”

"Venice has a great giving spirit. Venice always wants to make itself a better place to live.”

  • Bob Vedder enjoying a morning in Venice
  • Bob and Susan Vedder by a flower fountain in Venice