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Janet Long Fish

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Janet Long Fish 1920 - 2008 Janet Long Fish, 87, of Austin, passed away the evening of April 18, 2008 in Austin. Janet was the daughter of Walter Ewing Long and Janet Kaapke Long. She was a life long resident of Austin, attended University Junior High School, Austin High School, and graduated from the University of Texas in 1942 where she was a member most notably of Phi Beta Kappa honor society, Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Bit and Spur, and Cap and Gown among others. Her priority in life was to be a great mother, instill the values of her traditional upbringing and to encourage her three sons to be their best. In doing so, she gave up a promising career as a lyric soprano opera singer under the tutelage of Maestro Desegarola of Los Angeles, concerts with the Metropolitan Opera, and a number of recordings. She was also a decorated equestrian, competing in hunt and jumping, as well as an avid polo player, and riding competitively with the University of Texas Equestrian Team. Janet continued to ride her three gaited horse until shortly after her 85th birthday. West Austin will remember the annual Christmas Party for the neighborhood children that continued for two generations. The children would gather for tamales and then, accompanied by her skills on the accordion, walk to the home of each child and serenade their parents while ringing sleigh bells. Her passion for history was passed to her by her father. She collected historical carriages of significance to central Texas including vehicles belonging to former Governor Ellisha Pease and his wife Julia and the Walter Tips family, vehicles used by President McKinley and President Teddy Roosevelt, and vehicles used by Governor Bill Clements. She saved from destruction three log cabins, one added as a room to her home on Windsor, the original Jolly family log cabin of Jollyville, and the third capitol building of the Republic of Texas. Janet, however, is most noted as the mother of the Hike and Bike Trail system in Austin. In the late 1950s, she took the money she had been given to purchase a new car, hired a bulldozer operator and began creating the first Hike and Bike trail which rambled from Pease Park to Gaston. She walked through grass that was taller than she was, throwing her hat into the air so the driver could see where to cut the trail. Over the years, she extended the trail to 31st Street, the addition of the "Ramble and Scramble" under the cliffs at 29th street, oversaw the planting of hundreds of flowers and fruit trees, and watered religiously during the brutal summers. She formed the Junior Deputies, a group of children who lived near the trail, to protect the trail from motor vehicles, trash and crime. Those children were responsible for arresting two robbers, a cat killer, and numerous violators of the "No Motor Vehicles" prohibition. She documented in detail the history of the trail from the hiding of Spanish gold, the rescue of an abducted child from an Indian camp at 29th street, the scalping of "old man Seiders" at Seider Springs, the burial of General Custer's troops in Pease Park, and the Sunday outings at Split Rock Pool. The success of the Hike and Bike Trail in Austin during the 60's drew the attention of Schwinn Bicycle Company that instituted a national program for the development of "Hike and Bike" trail systems in cities across the country. Through her vision, the city and other private groups have expanded the original trail system in Austin to include numerous creeks, Town Lake and the Green Belt. She was an active member of numerous local and national organizations including The Heritage Society of Austin, Austin History Center, Daughters of the American Revolution, Colonial Dames of America, National Carriage Society, Open Forum and Junior League. She supported numerous other organizations including the Austin Founders Trail Ride, the Austin Steam Train Association, the Austin Area Garden Council and the Neill-Cochran House Museum. She also served as a docent in the Governor's mansion under four governors. In 1996, she received the Certificate of Appreciation from the Austin Metropolitan Trails Council and the Volunteer Extraordinaire Award from the Junior League, the Sue and Frank McBee Visionary Award from the Heritage Society of Austin in 1997, and the Roberta Crenshaw Park Patron Lifetime Service Award from the City of Austin in 2006. Also in 2006 the new pedestrian bridge across Shoal Creek at 29th street was dedicated in her name. When Janet turned 75, she decided to learn to play the harp. She would invite her musical friends to the house to play duets. Janet always said that music is the last thing to go. As her friends and the friends of her father's generation grew older, she would load up the kids and her accordion and sing for them in nursing homes around Austin. And even when her care required her to be in a nursing home, she could still find the energy to play "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" (the Drinking Song) from La Traviata and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" on the piano to others, even though her hands were gnarled from arthritis. Friday evening, April 18, she joined those whom she had sung to for so many years. She is preceded in death by her parents and her brother Walter Long. She is survived by her sons, Russell Fish, III, Andrew Fish and his wife Paula, and John Fish and his wife Dana, their father, Russell Fish, Jr., her sister-in-law, Alice Long, twelve grandchildren and one great-grandson. Funeral services will be Wednesday, April 23, at 10:00 a.m. at a graveside service in the Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Austin. Janet's request would be that a plant be donated to the Austin Parks and Recreation Department for placement on the Hike and Bike trail between Pease Park and 29th Street so that residents and visitors can all enjoy the beauty of Austin and the consummation of her life's passion. Obituary and guestbook online at www. http://wcfish.com


Published in Austin American-Statesman from Apr. 20 to Apr. 22, 2008
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