By Scott Buttram
Trussville lost a treasure last week with the passing of Venie Payne. It is a loss that will not be easily replaced, because the combination of love for her community and action on behalf of her community is rare.
Many of us love the place in which we live. Working for the place we live? That is often another matter entirely. It was Mrs. Payne’s life work.
Her priorities in life were clear. A love for God and family and devotion to community were evidenced by her life and demonstrated by the family she raised along with her husband and former city councilman, H.B.
One son, Arthur, has served in the state House for more than 30 years. Another son, John, has served on city committees, including the committee to form the Trussville City School system and the Grow Trussville-Economic Development Committee on which he now sits
. Her daughter-in-law, Sally, was elected to serve as one of the first two female city council members in Trussville.
Some of Mrs. Payne’s community projects, which include the Trussville Historical Society and the Veterans Memorial, have been well documented. Much of her work was more private because she never sought accolades or recognition. She served her community because that is where her heart was.
I first took notice of Mrs. Payne while covering city council meetings. She was a regular. When public comments were called for, she rarely let the opportunity to praise, chide or nudge the council pass without having her say. She treated the local newspaper the same way.
Whether she wanted the city to support a project or wanted the local newspaper to publicize a project, she almost always got her way. Because she was never asking for herself, but asking for her community, it was easy to oblige her. She saw herself as nothing more than a catalyst.
Mrs. Payne wasn’t able to attend the recent Trussville Area Chamber of Commerce banquet where she was awarded the Gatekeeper award for community service. I’m sure she would have been appreciative. I’m equally sure that she would have seized to opportunity to promote the community.
She believed with everything in her that Trussville was special, but she never saw herself as special. It may have been the only thing in her life that she was wrong about, because she was special. Every city should be so lucky as to have a Venie Payne in their midst.
It is unfortunate that she won’t see the finished project surrounding the Veterans Memorial, and it saddens me.
I hope the Trussville Parks and Recreation Board, along with Mayor Gene Melton and the Trussville City Council, will consider naming the area around the memorial in her honor. I think Veterans Memorial at Venie Payne Plaza would be appropriate for consideration.
So, I’m asking for her because she would have never, ever asked for herself. And because she was special.