Editorial: A heart’s gift

A rich and full life was enjoyed by former selectman Michael Venus, who died peacefully on July 1. The testimony of his time might be to live well, serve the community, and enjoy. But his 74 years also serve as reminder of the priceless gifts people make by choosing to be organ donors.

Growing up in Ridgefield, Mike Venus worked on Conklin’s Farm — an experience, his family said in Mike’s obituary, that “taught him to take the scenic route his entire life.” He drove a school bus, delivered milk, and eventually led the Venus Oil Company, started by his uncle.

He served Ridgefield in the volunteer fire department for decades, as clerk of the Board of Finance, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, on the Police Commission, and as a member of the Board of Selectmen.

He met Veronica DiFranco — the future Ronnie Venus — at Ridgefield High School, and they married and raised a family.

He developed serious heart trouble, but lived 16 years longer than he might have, thanks to an organ donor. The Venus family said it simply and eloquently: “He receive the gift of a new heart on October 1, 2002 from a Boston man. That gave him many more years to see children marry and grandchildren born.”

According to the non-profit Donate Life America, there are 115,000 people awaiting life-saving organ transplants, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and 8,000 people a year die waiting for transplants.

A single organ donor can save up to eight lives, and while 95% of Americans favor organ donation, only 56% are registered as donors.

Ridgefielders would do well to remember Mike Venus — selectman, volunteer firefighter, husband, father, grandfather — by making sure they’re signed up.