Less than 30 days ago, on July 27, Steve Vianest, the husband of Dr. Howard Cunningham, was in Mexico, watching his son Brad, 16, make his first-ever shipwreck dive.

Ever the proud daddy, Steve posted pictures of the adventure on Facebook.

Three weeks earlier, the two were touring Mayan ruins, negotiating the rain forests while trying out native recipes. Steve made a point of tasting the homemade coconut cookies and Mayan honey.

Before the month was over, on July 30, Vianest and Brad were also at a Marlins game in Miami, undoubtedly downing a hot dog with mustard, softening the blow of watching our local franchise lose yet another game.

Next to his 40-year partnership with Cunningham, nothing gave Vianest more life and joy than raising and sharing time with Brad, who the couple first boldly adopted as a Latvian youth 11 years ago.

Vianest, who would have been 65 next month, passed away from COVID-19 this week, only 14 days after being hospitalized for the illness. Despite being vaccinated in March, Vianest’s earlier struggles in life with cancer and leukemia took a greater toll on his body and heart than he could now bear.

A Long Island boy, who graduated from Hicksville High and then attended Nassau Community College, Vianest had retired to South Florida after a “lifetime of love and worldwide travel with my partner Howard.”

In an interview with SFGN in 2010, Vianest told the paper “our lives changed forever when on a trip to Key West we both agreed we wanted to adopt a child.”

Since it was before same-sex adoption became legal in Florida, there were legal and administrative hurdles the couple would face. But nothing would stop them.

Today, Cunningham will tell you that raising Brad illuminated Vianest’s life, but so too will dozens of Facebook posts, showcasing the times and joys the family shared together, from cruises in Alaska to days at Disney.

Stated Kenny Silverman, a local realtor, who was one of Steve’s closest friends: “He was like family to me. Please keep his husband Howard and son Brad in your thoughts.”

Vianest’s passing has left a legion of friends wounded, from his lifetime in the shoe industry in Manhattan to South Florida. A host of colleagues have been posting fond farewells capturing the essence and energy of this enthusiastic barrel of a man.

From lifelong friend Ed Wenzel, a musician, “From the early days in our band, Flyer, to your friendship with Cyndi Lauper, we are all saddened and heartbroken.”

Added Joe Heredia, “He touched so many lives in his time. He accomplished so much. He was such a great man.”

Hope Ruby, a friend for 35 years said, “From our years of fun at the Shoe Box to meeting you in Florida, I will forever miss you … You were always so happy and ecstatic to be a DAD.”

Over 200 more comments praised Vianest’s courage, tenacity, and strength, along with his valiant struggle to overcome COVID-19, but in the end, Cunningham wrote, “Despite his vaccinations and vigilance, this horrible virus did too much damage to him.”

Services will be held this Sunday at Kraeer-Fairchild Funeral Home, 4061 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, from 1-4 p.m., and 6-8 p.m.

A funeral mass will be held the following morning, Monday, Aug. 30, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Coleman’s Catholic Church, 1200 S. Federal Highway, Pompano Beach.

In lieu of flowers, Cunningham has asked that donations be made to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or the Coral Reef Alliance.


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