Tyrus "Ty" Gerard Fain
April 18, 1933 – November 30, 2012
It's an old Texas compliment: "There was no one better to run the river with."
Although it applied especially to the Rio Grande in the case of Tyrus "Ty" Gerard Fain, who died November 30, 2012, of complications from lung cancer surgery in Houston at the age of 79, it well describes his bountiful and generous life.
A lifelong love affair with the river began when his father put little Ty on a mule in a snowstorm and took him to the headwaters of the Rio Grande.
When most his age would have retired, Fain founded the Rio Grande Institute, a non-profit focused on economic development and ecological and historic preservation projects along his beloved Rio Grande. He managed to get the New York Times to do a story about saving a small bridge to Mexico, thus aiding his almost single-handed successful campaign to preserve the La Linda Bridge, an old border crossing deep in Big Bend, which was among his favorite haunts.
Ty's wise and playful, caring and heartfelt gifts of intellect and friendship are countless. When his friend, Texas author and Ann Richards' biographer Jan Reid was shot by a robber in Mexico City, where he had gone to reunite with a friend and deported boxer, Reid's wife, Dorothy Browne, telephoned Ty. No hesitation. He was on the next plane to Mexico, City.
Talk about running the river. Every day.
Fain was an unabashed Texas liberal who worked most actively in the campaigns of Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy for President, Texas Senator Ralph W. Yarborough, gubernatorial candidate Frances "Sissy" Farenthold, and Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, but there wasn't a progressive Democrat who didn't know he/she could count on Ty for everything from wise political and policy counsel to sweaty political labor.
Fluent in Spanish, he served his country in diplomacy and foreign relations with the State Department in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua and Mexico during the Kennedy Administration and worked for the Agency for International Development (AID) and the Inter-American Development Bank.
Fain was also involved on the legislative side of public service, working for Senator Yarborough on the U.S. Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee. Later he served as Assistant Land Commissioner of Texas for State-Federal Relations.
He founded National Congressional Analysis, which published a daily newsletter about activity in Congress. His able partner in the venture was Katharine "Kate" Plant, whom he would marry in 1979 and who survives him.
Fain is also survived by three children, Tanya, Keneth, and Paul from an earlier marriage, two grandchildren, older brother William "Bill," and many nieces and nephews.
Fain, the youngest of three children of C.B. "Jack Fain and Louise Foster Fain (sister Jacqelyn is deceased), was born April 18, 1933, in San Antonio. After briefly attending elementary school in Georgetown, he grew up in Dallas and attended Highland Park High School, before being admitted without a high school diploma to North Texas State Teachers College in Denton. He earned his degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and did post-graduate work at Yale University.
Recalling his first job as a boy, Ty, with that ever-present twinkle in his blue eyes, thrived on grocery shopping, roaming the aisles especially of the mothership of Whole Foods Market, sometimes called "The Museum of Modern Food," plotting an adventurous new dinner concoction for Kate and friends. He relished the dinner parties, fueled with tequila as well as fine food, that gave birth to endless story-telling, political plotting and laughter.
During one of their stints in Austin, Ty and Kate revived a traditional event that had become moribund, and for several years continued hosting, Final Friday parties---monthly Texas-style salon-like gatherings of progressive politicians, poets, writers, artists, photographers that began in the 1960s and endure to this day.
In 1998, Ty and Kate Fain moved to tiny Marathon on the edge of the Big Bend in West Texas, building a little stucco compound on a small rise at the southeast corner of the town that gave them awe-inspiring views of the Chisos Mountains, the desert, the humble town below, and endless skies and glorious sunsets. Casa Fain served for more than a decade as way-station for friends travelling west and the welcoming venue for more than a decade of annual New Year's gatherings of like-minded friends.
The Fains returned to city ways in 2010 when they moved back to Austin full-time, keeping in their hearts and souls the stark beauty of West Texas and the thrill of running the Rio Grande River.
Memorial gatherings are pending. For information, contact email@example.com