Longtime Venice political activist, car collector,
and Marina Boat owner dies 9-7-07 at 79
by Rick Feibusch
Longtime Venice Beach neighborhood activist, wooden boat owner/restorer, and Boardwalk character, Rudolph Axford, passed on this month after a lengthy stay at the VA Services facility in Brentwood for a heart condition. Axford, consumed by many interests; from his gleaming varnished wooden sailboat, "The Dolph'n," and a series of Model A Fords that he often drove daily, and a collection of Julian Ritter artwork, was most concerned about his first love. Venice, California.
Rudolph's Venice roots go back to days of Abbot Kinney's "Venice of America" at the last turn of the century. Kinney contracted with Axford's Grandfather, Miguel Lopez, who owned a paving company in Mexico, to come north and pave the streets of the new community Kinney was building by the sea. The equipment and the skilled workers were transported here by horse and wagon.
Miguel Lopez was known to his workers as "Don Miguel" and laid the first asphalt down on Speedway Ave. or "The Speedway," as it was known at the time. Later on he became a nursery supplier. The grandparents, Miguel and Luisa, later moved into a house in Venice where Rudolph spent many happy summer days as a child.
His mother, Louisa, had married his father, a German mechanic/commercial garage owner and was bringing up the family in Vernon, in East Los Angeles. With easy access to tools, know-how, and the scrap yard of old Ford parts stashed behind his father's shop, Rudolph and his five brothers were some of the first California hot rodders, just before WWII.
Axford went into the US Navy in 1944 and was discharged around 1946. According to family reports, Rudolph's voluntary early induction into the Navy was because his mother, Louisa apparently misrepresented his age in order for him to be accepted at the age of 16. They had to chose between the Navy or Juvenile Hall. It seems he was in a lot of trouble for hot rodding up and down Whittier Boulevard!
After the war, Rudolph worked at a number of jobs and set up a number of small businesses from Real Estate, and aftermarked auto accessories, to trading in fine arts and classic cars. He was the right man, at the right place, at the right time while working as a salesman for Ford, when the two-place Thunderbirds were introduced in the mid-1950s, selling them to the many Hollywood stars who were waiting in line for them. His love of T'Birds and Model A's followed him for life. In fact, Rudolph met his wife, Buddy Ann when she was the T-Bird turntable spokes-model at the LA Auto Show.
Along with his real estate and automotive interests, Rudolph was occasionally called to serve the military over the years. He was an adviser for the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1970's and traveled to China (two weeks before President Nixon) and Viet Nam in 1972. His last advisory tour was "Desert Storm," a decade ago.
Rudolph returned to Venice and the Marina in the mid-1970s. He bought a run-down house north of Rose, a few houses south of the Santa Monica border. As he slowly remodeled his little cottage, he realized that other neighbors started doing the same, so he organized his neighbors to get the junk cars off of the lawns and engines and car parts off the parkways. Soon lawns and landscaping spread on Fifth. He helped form the North Venice Community Group that was one of the first groups to bring shade trees and gentrification to Venice, a legacy that can be seen today in the lush, mature trees and beautiful homes on Fifth Ave, north of Rose.
Axford stayed active until the end, working tirelessly with the later North Beach Neighborhood Assn, and Rose Ave. Working Group to improve the quality of life in the Rose Avenue area. He also was a friend and strong supporter of the late Pearl White and the many projects and plans she envisioned for Oakwood and all of Venice.
A political conservative in the Venice sea of liberal thought, Rudolph often brought a different point of view to the table, especially on the subjects of property rights and unearned entitlements. He always wanted to see Venice safe, clean, well managed, and successful commercially - and was quite pleased with the changes he saw over the last few years.
He is survived by his children, Randolph and Fern Williams of Marina del Rey, Brandon and Jill Williams of West LA and Mike and Pandora Wan who presently live in Japan.
A memorial service will be held at the Veterans Administration on Tuesday, October 2nd at 10:30AM LA National Cemetery, 950 South Sepulveda
Sunday, September 30, 2007