FARABEE, KENNETH RAY (1932 ~ 2014). The following is an obituary for Kenneth "Ray" Farabee, former Texas State Senator. The obituary was provided by Weed, Corley, Fish Funeral Home of Austin.
Kenneth "Ray" Farabee died at his home in Austin on Thursday, November 20, 2014 after a life well lived. He was 81. Born in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1932, Ray graduated from Wichita Falls High School before attending the University of Texas at Austin. Ray was elected Student Body President at UT but only served for a short time prior to taking a position with the National Student Association where he traveled the nation working with other university student government organizations. During his travels he met Helen Rehbein, Student Body President of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The two were married in 1958. Ray and Helen lived in Austin while he completed law school then moved back to his hometown to begin his law practice and their family. As for public service, it was never a question of if, but of when. In 1974, Ray was elected to the office of Texas State Senator where he served with distinction, earning Texas Monthly's Ten Best Legislator award five times.
No one said it better than Texas Monthly when stating Ray was "the complete senator, operates on a different level from anyone else, even the good ones; acts not as representative of a single district but as a trustee of an entire state" and "the most respected member of the Legislature; carries the best bills, runs the most important committee and has the longest vision." Some of his many accomplishments included being chosen, along with Helen, as Texans of the Year by Texas Business magazine; being named as an Outstanding West Texan--an honor earlier given to the person responsible for Ray's first job at the State Capitol, John Ben Shepperd; and receiving the Hall of Honor award from Texas Corrections Association. Many Texans still enjoy the fruits of his legislative efforts including repealing the Texas Blue Laws, organ transplant legislation, child care and tort reform along with extensive changes to the mental health care system in Texas.
In 1988 Ray retired from the Senate and began his service as Vice Chancellor, General Counsel of the University of Texas System, serving until 2000. During this time he served on and later chaired the board of directors for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and Illinois. Having lost Helen to illness in 1988, Ray married Mary Margaret Albright in 1991. The two of them traveled extensively all around the world and worked tirelessly to support many philanthropic causes related to the arts and human services. Ray spent much of his "retirement" focusing on family and on causes near to his heart, including serving as board chair of KUT, as secretary of the Access to Justice Foundation and as a board member of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. He continued to enjoy his monthly Conversation Group suppers with his friends of more than 50 years. The rest of his tireless energy went to tending all of the plants in his beautiful yard. As he put it in his memoir, "simple pleasures are more a part of my life in retirement."
Ray was preceded in death by his mother and father, Jack and Annie Lee, his first wife, Helen and his second wife, Mary Margaret. He is survived by two sons and their wives, Steve and Karen Farabee of Austin and David and Terri Farabee of Wichita Falls. He is also survived by his step daughter Patricia Albright of Austin. Ray was very proud of his four grandchildren, Worth, Nancy Helen, Russell and Sara Helen.
A memorial service will be held in the Senate Chamber of the Texas Capitol at 2 pm on Friday December 5. A private burial at the State Cemetery will follow on December 6. A memorial service will be held in Wichita Falls but that date and time is still pending.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Farabee Fund, providing ongoing support to charitable causes that were passions of Helen, Mary Margaret and Ray, via the Farabee Fund c/o Austin Community Foundation, 4315 Guadalupe St., Suite 300, Austin, TX 78751 (austincf.org) or a donation to the charity of your choice. Ray would have us carry on, remembering his legacy—a life well lived.