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Fane Downs

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Posted: Friday, January 3, 2020 1:17 pm

Fane Downs

The Reverend Doctor Fane Downs was born on March 26, 1935 in Lubbock, Texas and passed away on Dec. 11, 2019, in Kerrville.

The Service in Witness to the Resurrection for Rev. Dr. Fane Downs will be Saturday, Jan. 11 at 1 p.m. in the Sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church of Kerrville, 800 Jefferson St. Reception to follow in Ryan Hall.

She was the first child of Jack Downs and Margaret Stanton Downs. Her father said that his first born child would be named for his brother, Fane, who was killed in 1933 over a water rights dispute in drought stricken Reeves County, Texas.

Her parents, aunts, uncles and cousins preceded her in death. She is survived by her brother, William J. Downs, Ph.D. of Orange Grove, Texas

Fane Downs was baptized as an infant in the Methodist Church in Mertzon, Texas. When her mother died, she and her brother went to Fort Stockton to live with their aunt as their dad worked long hours in West Texas. There she was confirmed at the First Presbyterian Church where she felt at home and loved the scripture.

Fane Downs graduated as Valedictorian from Fort Stockton High School, TX; she was graduated from Tarleton State with an A.A. in 1955, and went on to earn B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Texas Tech.

After graduating with her B.A. from Texas Technological College in1957, Fane Downs became a Professional Girl Scout, District Director for the Girl Scout Caprock Council, then the West Texas Council. Her Girl Scout camp name was “Tadpole” as she taught swimming and was water front director prior to becoming camp director.

In 1965 Fane returned to Texas Technological College, earning her M.A. in history; then in 1970, her Ph.D. in history. Her doctoral dissertation: “The History of Mexicans in Texas, 1820-1845.”

She held honorary society memberships in Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Alpha Theta, and Sigma Delta Pi.

Fane Downs, Ph. D. taught at McMurry College, Abilene, 1970 to 1989 as Professor of History and Chair of the History Department and Division of Social Sciences. Fondly called “Mother McMurry,” Dr. Downs instituted Women’s History Observances. She served on and often chaired many faculty committees. Twice she was named by her colleagues as Outstanding Faculty Member. She also was the first director of the Honors Program.

Dr. Downs served as President of the West Texas Historical Association, a member of the Executive Council of the Texas State Historical Association, and Editorial Board on the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.

She was Advisory Editor for women’s history for The Handbook of Texas.

She published many papers, articles, and authored and co-authored many books on Texas history and women’s history including: Abilene: An American Centennial, marking the city’s 100th anniversary in 1981.; “The Spaces Between The Leaves; An Essay On Women’s History and Theology” in the Austin Seminary Bulletin, Faculty Edition; Women in Church History. Oct., 1988.; “Texas Women: History at the Edges.” in Texas Through Time: Evolving Interpretations, edited by Walter L. Buenger and Robert A. Calvert, 81–101. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991.; 1999 – 2000 Bible Study for Presbyterian Women, Old Songs for a New Millennium: a Study of Psalms.

Of all the titles and degrees Dr. Downs earned over her lifetime she relished the title of "Admiral in the Texas Navy," awarded by the governor in recognition of exemplary service to Texas. Her Commission as "Admiral in the Texas Navy" was by Governor Dolph Briscoe.

While living and teaching in Abilene, she was active in Westminster Presbyterian Church serving as a deacon, a ruling elder, and clerk of session. The women of the church kept urging her to go into the ministry. After much prayer Fane took and passed the Presbyterian Church Ordination Exams prior to attending seminary.

Dr. Downs studied theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary from August 1986 through December 1987; receiving her M. Div. in 1988. She was the first Ph.D. to study for the M. Div. at APTS. She was quoted as saying, “As a college professor, I always felt a vague sense of incompleteness in my work, but that disappeared when I came to seminary … .” She graduated with straight As, a first in the eighty-five year history of the seminary. Rev. Dr. Fane Downs was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) at Westminster Presbyterian Church on March 20, 1988, and served as interim associate pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Abilene while still teaching at McMurry. Then she was called as Associate Pastor to First Presbyterian Church in Dallas.

Rev. Dr. Fane Downs HR (honorably retired) served in each of the five presbyteries in Texas. Her pastorates from 1989 to 2005 included: Interim Associate Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian, Abilene; Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Dallas; Interim Pastor of Preston Hollow, Presbyterian Church Dallas; at that time she was the first female pastor of a large Presbyterian Church, 2700 members; Interim Pastor of John Calvin Presbyterian Church, San Antonio; Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Midland; Interim Pastor of Northwoods Presbyterian Church, Houston; Interim Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Snyder.

Rev. Dr. Fane Downs served as Moderator of Grace Presbytery, Chair of the Women in Ministry Work Group for the Synod of the Sun, twice as a Commissioner to PC(USA) General Assembly. She served on the PC(USA) Permanent Judicial Commission for ten years, on the Executive Board of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, on the Editorial Board of Reformed Liturgy and Music, and as a member of the Board of Trustees of Presbyterian Pan American School.

Ever faithful to her call, Rev. Dr. Fane Downs was keynote speaker to Presbyterian Women Gatherings in Grace, Mission and Palo Duro Presbyteries, and taught many workshops often at the Mo-Ranch Women’s Conferences. One of her favorites was The Theology of Baseball as she was an avid Rangers fan. Fane was a founding member of Guadalupe Gathering, an intentional community in support of Mo-Ranch.

Living in Buffalo Gap, Texas, Rev. Dr. Downs served her last pastorate and retired in 2005. She moved to Ingram in December of 2007 to be closer to Mo-Ranch. Quickly she became active in First Presbyterian Church, Kerrville, and in her community. In 2009 she became a Master Naturalist and by 2014 had volunteered over 1,000 hours. She served on the Board of the Riverside Nature Center in Kerrville, and was active in the Texas Democratic Women of Kerr County.

Her many friends and colleagues will miss her wise counsel, wit and humor. We thank her devoted caregivers Maria Rosales and Cheryl Reininger, Rebecca and the staff of Heart Choices Care Management, Peterson Hospice, and Brookdale Skilled Nursing.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church, Kerrville; Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin; Mo-Ranch, Hunt; and Riverside Nature Center, Kerrville.

Grimes Funeral Chapels of Kerrville

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