To know Venus and Bill Strawn is to be witness to a great love story, or at least one that has happily survived the decades, the pandemic and the new era of online dating. To know them is to know a couple who is warm-hearted, full of life and always ready to dance… or play Pickleball.
Kimberly A. Suta
Although Venus was raised in New York, her family hails from Puerto Rico, and you can still catch a subtle accent when you speak with her. She received an RN nursing degree from the Roosevelt Hospital School of Nursing before she met Bill. “I loved being a nurse in New York City — it was a wonderful time in my life,” she said.
Bill, on the other hand, grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and has had a diverse yet storied career. He started working at the age of 12 for the Grand Ole Opry, selling souvenirs and programs. He remembers seeing icons like Johnny Cash and The Everly Brothers in concert. “It was a tremendous experience,” he recalled. “That’s where I learned in sales, not to prejudge customers by their appearance.”
He went to Middle Tennessee State University, where he received a Masters in Science and Biology before venturing into an esteemed career in medical sales.
Like many couples do, Bill and Venus met through work.
“I hired her as a sales rep. At the time, she was a nurse in NYC, and I was the northeastern general manager for Scientific Products division of American Hospital Supply Corporation. Venus came in for an interview after passing muster with everyone else,” shared Bill. “I didn’t call her back right away so she called and told me, ‘I’m still out here waiting.’ I told the HR guy that this woman has guts and I’d like to hire her. She went through sales training, and I would get to see her sometimes. I always liked her, so when I was promoted as president in Japan, I felt since I was no longer her boss, I could ask her out.”
From there it was something of a whirlwind romance. Bill asked Venus to accompany him to Japan, which she did, and it was there that they got married, in Kobe, before having a more formal wedding back in NYC.
“I was 28 and he was 38 at the time, so you don’t mess around, waiting too long to get married,” joked Venus. “So, I became an instant mother living in Japan with a new husband and a new career. It was a great challenge, but we embraced it as a great adventure.”
Venus made lots of friends in Japan, from England, Scotland and Australia, thanks to the diverse international community there, and took courses on Japanese flower arranging and etiquette, such as how to behave properly at a wedding or a funeral.
Bill and Venus eventually found there way to Texas via Bill’s job. They settled in Austin and lived there for over 30 years on Lake Travis before moving to Spanish Oaks. Bill noted that they were one of the first 25 members of the Spanish Oaks Golf Club.
Both Bill and Venus continued to pursue their careers and passions, racking up numerous accomplishments during their time in Austin. Venus became an Austin civic leader. She was recognized as a “Women on Their Toes” honoree in 2009 and appointed to the board of Humanities Texas in 2009 by Governor Perry and in 2011 by Governor Abbott.
“I have an incredible passion for philanthropy and tend to focus my work on organizations that benefit children and the elderly,” she shared.
In fact, one of her proudest accomplishments is she co-founded the Dancing With the Stars Austin fundraiser for the Center for Child Protection, which is modeled after the popular TV series and showcases all kinds of ballroom dancing.
According to her proud husband, Bill, “Hands down, creating Dancing With the Stars is her biggest accomplishment. She co-founded the event with Jeanne Parker, who just joined The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. This was the first time in Texas for this type of fundraiser. It’s gone on now for 16 years and over the course of that time has raised around 16 million dollars. It’s one of the most prominent events in Austin. People come out of the woodwork every year to participate.”
As for Bill’s greatest accomplishments, of which there are many, he built a nationally recognized executive search firm, Strawn Arnold Associates, based in Austin that still exists today and conducts high-level searches in the pharma biotech industry.
Additionally, he built and owned a commercial subdivision named Preserve at Bee Cave, which he eventually sold when he retired: “I named a street in the subdivision off Bee Caves Road after our granddaughter — Ashley Worth Boulevard.” He was also the chair of the Judicial Compensation Committee for the State of Texas. “Judges never get a raise. I was a fighter for them to get a raise in 2013 and met with members of the legislature. After succeeding, the judges sent a letter of gratitude. They hadn’t gotten a raise in 10 years at the time,” explained Bill.
Eventually, though, the tremendous growth and congestion in Austin caught up with the couple. Their friends and neighbors in Spanish Oaks, Tom and Susan Boehme, had bought a house in Cordillera Ranch so they decided to come down for a visit and take a look.
“We looked at two houses on Sunday morning and one was under construction by Burdick Custom Homes. It had an open floorplan between the kitchen and the living room and was very efficiently designed. We also liked the large glass doors that open up to the porch and the pool area, which you can leave open, integrating the inside and outside. Monday morning, we signed a contract. So, that was a pretty quick deal. We love Cordillera Ranch. We like the active social life at the Club and the wine dinners, so it’s really more than just golf. We like Pickleball and look forward to the opening of the dedicated Pickleball courts,” said Bill.
They moved into their new home on April 1, 2021, and although there were many enticements to live in Cordillera Ranch, being a part of an active community really sealed the deal for the handsome couple, and as you might have guessed, it didn’t take long for Bill and Venus to make a bunch of new friends.
“Here at the Club, there’s so much to do and interact with new people on another level. It’s just a different social lifestyle. The amenities are so great and the surrounding area is so beautiful,” shared Venus. “We have a Gold Rush night every Wednesday, which is so much fun, and I started a Pickleball group called the Pickleball Divas — it’s a great group of women from all over.”
The Strawns have been married now for 41 years, and they both agree that is, in truth, their greatest achievement. When asked what their secret is. “Tolerance,” joked Bill.
“We also have grandkids that actually call us to say hello, and they love to come visit,” said Venus. Their kids include sons Steve, who lives in San Antonio, and Brian, who lives in Boston. Their daughter Anita and her husband Jeff live in Sarasota Springs, and are parents to Ashley and Eric. Ashley is a recent graduate from UC Davis and lives in San Francisco. Eric is a senior at Cal Poly.
If you are lucky enough to make friends with Bill and Venus, make sure to ask them for a tour of the artwork in their home, which is a combination of southwestern and Japanese art. “We have a Japanese screen that’s almost 200 years old,” noted Bill. “It’s really beautiful,” added Venus. “We also have some art from an old Japanese artist who is 106-years-old, named Shinoda. She’s considered a Japanese treasure.”
Of course, in our humble opinion, you couldn’t find more of a treasure in the Strawn home than the love and welcoming energy that they share with all of the family and friends who walk through their door.