VENTURA — Russ Murawski, a longtime Ventura County resident who tirelessly championed the cause of seniors, the disabled and mobile home park residents, died Tuesday after a brief illness. He was 77.
Murawski, who was born in St. Paul, Minn., in 1923, lost his left eye in a childhood fishing accident. He moved to California in 1950 and owned a dental supply business until he lost the sight in his right to glaucoma about 30 years ago.
But friends said Murawski did not let his blindness stop him from fighting for causes he believed in. Murawski, who served on many civic committees, kept research notes on an elaborate system of tape recorders and traveled to many public meetings via a public transportation system that he fought to improve.
A $1.8-million bus transportation center proposed for Ventura's Pacific View Mall will include public restrooms largely because of Murawski's efforts, according to Ventura officials. He also had supported Ventura holding a series of public workshops and an outreach program on senior transportation issues, an idea the City Council will consider next week.
Murawski not only urged local transportation officials to apply for federal grants to enhance services for seniors and the disabled, but he also helped prove such improvements were needed. For example, he timed his walks from various bus stops to illustrate how far away bus routes are from destinations important to seniors.
Murawski was known for not mincing words, yet he gained the respect of the public officials he lobbied.
Ventura City Councilman Jim Friedman, a South Coast Area Transit board member, said Murawski would not simply complain but made concrete suggestions and even called officials after a vote with praise and support.
"I'm going to miss his humor and his tenacity and the will he had to keep pushing to make transportation better for everybody in the city," Friedman said.
Ventura Mayor Sandy Smith said Murawski was a leader in public involvement.
"It always meant so much more to me to have someone like Russ speak who had overcome the hindrances that he did on a daily basis," Smith said.
In 1992, Murawski founded the Ventura College's Friends of the High Tech Center for the Disabled, and helped raise more than $100,000 for the center, which has helped hundreds of disabled students learn computer skills. The nonprofit organization gives out an annual scholarship in Murawski's name.
A 12-year resident of the Country Estates mobile home park, Murawski supported the rights of fellow mobile home park residents. He also worked with senior nutrition programs, served on advisory councils on senior issues and worked with organizations for the blind.
Virginia Forbes, Murawski's longtime companion, said Murawski was also a terrific dancer.
In addition to Forbes, Murawski is survived by brothers Fritz and George, who live in St. Paul; sons Gregory, Douglas, David, Russell and Kevin; a daughter, Sharyl; and six grandchildren.
Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 3290 Loma Vista Road in Ventura. Family members said Murawski will be cremated and his ashes returned to his native Minnesota.