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WALTER WILLIAM FONDREN III

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WALTER WILLIAM FONDREN III, a passionate conservationist, an avid hunter and fisherman, and a true Texan, died on the 28th of January 2010 at the age of 73, following a courageous battle with congestive heart disease. He was surrounded by his wife Fran of 53 years and his loving family. Walter was born on the 29th of April 1936 to Doris Ledwidge and Walter William Fondren, Jr. and grew up with his three sisters in Houston.An amazing and gifted athlete, Walter graduated in 1954 from Lamar High School, where he received the Texas Sportswriter's "Outstanding High School Football Player of the Year" Award, after leading Lamar to the 1953 High School State Championship. He would later be elected to the Texas High School Hall of Fame. Walter went on to play football for The University of Texas Longhorns, where he was selected "First Team All Southwest Conference" and "All Southwest Conference Halfback" in 1955. Remarkably, Walter played both offense and defense, still holding the record for most minutes played in a season. He received the "George `Hook' McCullough Football Outstanding Player" Award in 1956 and would later be inducted into The University of Texas Hall of Honor. He graduated from The University of Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He was drafted by the NFL Los Angeles Rams. However, by the time he graduated in 1958, he had married the love of his life, Frances Leland Fondren, and they had decided to move back to Houston to begin their family.Walter spent time with his growing family, developed his career investing in businesses, served on the board of the Fondren Foundation, which was started by his grandparents, and made perhaps his greatest civic contribution by his tireless leadership of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). His competitive spirit led him from the football field to the golf course. As a scratch golfer, he qualified and played in the British Amateur Golf Tournament in 1971; he served as director of the Trans Pacific Golf Association; and successfully competed in the Golf Crest Four Ball Championship, winning five consecutive championships, a record that still stands. Walter was an avid outdoorsman and most enjoyed being in the field, whether he was hunting, fishing, or shooting photographs. He loved Texas, family, his many great friends, and his beloved Texas Longhorns.As a trustee and past chairman of the Fondren Foundation, Walter was instrumental in contributing to countless charitable organizations throughout Houston, the state of Texas, and the U.S. He was particularly instrumental in the development and growth of several nonprofit institutions that today are leaders in their fields. He was an avid supporter of the Coastal Conservation Association, The Methodist Hospital, The Brookwood Community, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, and the Center for Recovering Families.Walter's passion for the outdoors and conservation gave him the opportunity to work closely with many people from presidents to the countless volunteers who worked tirelessly at his side. He always reminded anyone who would listen that the backbone of any non-profit organization was the strength of its volunteer membership. Concerned by the noticeable decline of the inshore fisheries caused by commercial over-fishing in Texas, in 1977 Walter became the founding chairman of the Gulf Coast Conservation Association (GCCA), now the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), a nationally recognized organization with chapters in 17 coastal states and dedicated to using the best available science to restore and conserve the marine environment. He served on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council as a member from 1982 through 1992; was Council Chairman from 1989 to 1990; and also served on the Billfish Advisory Committee since 1994. He received the Harvey Weil Sportsman/Conservationist Award in 2000 and the prestigious Charles H. Lyles Award in 2001 from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission in recognition of a lifetime of exceptional contributions on behalf of marine resources. He was inducted into the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in 2004 and served as an IGFA trustee for many years. He served as chairman of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and was past chairman of the Gulf Coast Council's Billfish Advisory Council. In 2005, he was named one of the 50 legends of fishing by Field & Stream magazine. He was the first recipient of the CCA's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He has left an unprecedented legacy to the saltwater fisherman.To those who love to fish and have a great time on the water, he will be remembered for gathering a group of fellow fishermen in 1969 and forming the Poco Bueno Invitational Fishing Tournament in Port O'Connor, Texas. Forty years later, Poco Bueno hosts over 170 boats and is one of the largest and most successful inshore and offshore fishing tournaments on the Gulf Coast and in the United States. Walter made many friends in Port O'Connor and co-founded the Alligator Head Club, where he, his family, and friends spent many a day on the water fishing.Walter was a member of River Oaks Country Club, The University of Texas "T Association" and St. Martin's Episcopal Church. Known as Bubby to his three sisters, and later to his 18 grandchildren and close friends, he was never happier than when spending time in the great outdoors hunting in South Texas, being on the water in Port O'Connor, or at Brushy Creek Ranch, which he and Fran spent years building for the family. Whether watching UT football, riding around on the tractor or spotting deer, he will be most remembered by those who loved him for his unconditional support, his keen knowledge of nature and wildlife, and his pure enjoyment and love of family. Walter found joy in sharing his wealth of knowledge with others, especially his children and grandchildren. It was more important to see others succeed than to actually "do it himself." As one grandchild said, "He loved to give advice to his grandchildren and loved it when his grandchildren asked for advice."Walter is preceded in death by his parents, the late Walter William Fondren and Mary Doris Fondren, and sister, the late Eleanor Ann Fondren. Walter is survived by his wife, Frances Leland Fondren, and their six children: Mary Frances Fondren, Walter William Fondren IV, Leland Thomas Fondren and wife Laurie, Robert Emmett Fondren and wife Carol, Marie Fondren Hall and husband Gray, and Bentley Burke Fondren; grandchildren: Michael Hanson and wife Jennifer, Burton Hanson, Anah Marie Hanson, Lindsey Fondren, Chase Fondren, Ryan Fondren, Lauren Fondren, Brittany Fondren, Catherine Fondren, Ashley Fondren, Robert Fondren, Mary Catherine Fondren, Berkeley Fondren, Reagan Hall, Erin Hall, Cara Hall, Christina Fondren, and Chloe Fondren; great grandson, Connor Hanson; his sisters: Doris Fondren Lummis and Camille Fondren Habermacher; and cousins: David Milton Underwood, Sue Trammell Whitfield, and Russell Bonner Bentley.The family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to his many friends, co-workers, and volunteers at the CCA, and the many nurses, doctors and staff at The Methodist Hospital.Friends are cordially invited to gather with the family and share remembrances from five o'clock in the afternoon until eight o'clock in the evening on Tuesday, the 2nd of February, at Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.The memorial service is to be conducted at two o'clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, the 3rd of February, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road in Houston, where the Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr., Rector, and the Rev. Martin J. Bastian are to officiate.Immediately following the service, the family will greet friends in the adjacent Bagby Parish Hall.Serving as honorary pallbearers are Haynes Hart, Tom Burke, Russell Bentley, Bill Kinney, David Cummins, Stewart Campbell, Don Perkins, Buddy Stavinoha, Hans Wagner, Bob Hayes, Bill Brock, Harry Terry, David Underwood Jr., Bobby Easton, John Paul Cain, Mike Wells, Michael Hanson, Burton Hanson, Chase Fondren, Ryan Fondren, Robert Fondren, and Berkeley Fondren. Prior to Wednesday afternoon's service, the family will have gathered at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston for a private interment service. In lieu of customary remembrances, contributions in Walter's memory may be directed to the Coastal Conservation Association Texas Fund, 6919 Portwest Dr., Suite 100, Houston, TX, 77024.
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Published in Houston Chronicle from Jan. 30 to Jan. 31, 2010
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