Mary Frances Fax, 90, a long-time resident of The Dalles area, died in Mid-Columbia Medical Center Sunday Sept. 7 after suffering a fall at her home the previous day. In addition to being a farm wife for more than 60 years, Mary was known in the community as an amateur violinist, and nature lover. She was the widow of wheat farmer George G. Fax who died in 2007.
Mary was born May 9, 1924, in Lizton, Indiana, the third daughter of Oscar and Ruth Leak Hall. She and her sisters had music lessons throughout childhood, Mary on violin, her elder sisters playing piano and cello. Mary graduated from Lizton High School in 1942. Joining her country’s war effort, she worked for a time at Allison Division of General Motors in Indianapolis, testing newly assembled engines for fighter aircraft.
When male cousins joined the Army Air Corps, Mary went to Texas to train as a pilot with the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots). This women’s corps was to prepare women pilots to ferry all types of military aircraft, thus freeing male pilots to fly combat missions. Mary had nearly completed pilot training and earned her wings when at the end of 1944 the government disbanded the WASP corps. She returned to her hometown, but continued flying for a time while working at a variety of jobs.
She became a music education student at what is now Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Her senior project in college was the solo performance of one of J.S. Bach’s pieces for solo violin that her professor arranged as a concerto with full orchestra. After graduation from Indiana State, Mary, encouraged by an elder sister to come to the Pacific Northwest, accepted a music teaching job in The Dalles in 1950.
She married George Fax in September 1953, and they lived on the Fax Brothers farm southeast of The Dalles. There they designed and worked to build a house where they spent the rest of their lives. In addition to her love for music, Mary was an accomplished landscape and nature photographer. She and George participated in photographic expeditions to East Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica, Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic. Mary took special interest in native plants and wildlife on the farm and around the region. Her bird feeders attracted thousands of birds to the Fax farmstead and she enjoyed protecting and observing other wildlife in the area and kept annual lists of the bird species she observed on the ranch. Mary also carefully recorded annual rainfall there, passing the data on to the county agricultural agent.
Mary continued playing violin for many years, performing with the Hood River Symphony and various small ensembles in and around the Mid-Columbia area. Her music enhanced many local weddings and other special occasions.
While recovering from cancer surgery in the 1970s, Mary conditioned herself by repeatedly climbing to the top of Rice elevator on the Fax Ranch and ascended Mount Hood with a small party of experienced climbers.
She always enjoyed visits from George’s family and her own sisters, nieces and nephews and was inevitably devoted to a beloved dog. In retirement, when others might have abandoned the country for the convenience of city life, both George and Mary lived all of their days in the home they loved so much — on the ranch George’s father established. Fax and Hall families are most grateful to caregivers, especially to Joan Parrott of The Dalles, who made it possible.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband as well as two elder sisters. Survivors include a sister Ruth Marie Hill of Laws, California, brother, Don Alan Hall of Corvallis, and nieces and nephews in Oregon, Montana, Virginia, and West Virginia.
There will be a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20 at the Spencer, Libby and Powell Funeral Home, 1100 Kelly Ave., The Dalles, with the Rev. Karl Vercouteren officiating. The families suggest donations to Home at Last Humane Society, 200 River Road, The Dalles, OR 97058; Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association, 4975 Highway 35, Hood River, OR 97031, or a charity of your choice.
Information from The Chronicle and our advertisers (Want to add your business to this to this feed?)