Shudde Bess Bryson Fath Obituary

Shudde Bess Bryson Fath passed away on December 9, 2022, at the age of 106 after enduring a few years with spinal stenosis, diabetes, breast cancer, and limited vision. Shudde was grateful for the good doctors who took care of her for so many years. She was born on January 11, 1916, the third of six children born to Lily Shuddemagen and James Gordon Bryson, MD, Bastrop, Texas.

She graduated from Bastrop High School as valedictorian in 1933 and received a BBA degree with highest honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 1937. She was president of the cap and gown, UT Sports Association and Racquet Club, and was a member of the Mortar Directorate, Council of the Judiciary, Beta Gamma Sigma, Alpha Lambda Delta, Zeta Tau Alpha, and intramural teams.

She met Conrad Fath in 1935, married him in 1938, and helped celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in 1988. Their beloved daughter, Betsy, was born in 1951.

In 1938, he began working for 42 1/2 years (at $90 a month) at the Texas Employment Commission (now the Texas Work Force Commission). In 1980 she won a landmark settlement (out of court) over a sex discrimination lawsuit filed five years earlier. Without the skills and dedication of the late attorney Broadus Spivey, this would not have happened. When asked by a reporter, he said he wanted to use his agreement to “try to make the world a better place.”

As the sex discrimination claim inched its way through the federal bureaucracy, Broadus was faced with the decision of whether to allow the feds to sue, or to sue himself. After deciding to file the lawsuit himself, it occurred to Shudde that a story might appear in the Austin newspaper. Concerned that his 94-year-old widowed mother who lives in Bastrop might be embarrassed by such publicity, she and Connie filled him in on what had been started earlier. The only comment from her mother was: “Well, someone had to do it.” On August 16, 1977, the Austin newspaper reported on the filing of the lawsuit.

When the agreement made the front page of the Austin newspaper on November 27, 1980, Shudde received several phone calls. A favorite of his was of Terrell Maverick Webb (Mrs. Walter Prescott Webb, widowed 1963) who said, “Shudde, I’m sitting here crying tears of joy over your victory.”

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In 1977, he began 40 years of volunteer service as a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Electric Utility Commission, where he consistently worked to achieve fair and equitable electric rates for residential and small business customers, losing that battle in the case of electricity rates of 2012. . Beginning in 1981, she served for 29 years as treasurer of the Save Barton Creek Association and was later named treasurer emeritus. In 1984 she received the Travis County Democratic Party’s Dedicated Service Award. In 1988 she received We Care Austin’s Lucadia Pease Award “for her outstanding civic leadership through research, education, and action for the creation of a quality environment in Austin, TX.”

In 1989 he shared with Betsy the Keep Austin Beautiful “1988 Volunteer of the Year” award. In 1991 he received a Yeller Dawg Award as an environmentalist from the South Austin Democrats; in 1993 and 2002 he received the Yeller Dawg Awards from that same organization. In 1993 he received the Beth Brown Boettner Award from the Environmental Board, Resource Management Commission and Solid Waste Advisory Commission, and shared The Austin Chronicle’s Best Local Visionary award with Molly Ivins. In 1994 he received the Senior Volunteer Award “for dedicated and sustained service” from the Retiree Coordinating Board, the Travis County Extension Service and Southwestern Bell. In 1996 he received a Distinguished Service Award from the Austin City Council. In 2000 he received a Hero of Barton Springs certificate from the Save Our Springs Alliance and Save Barton Creek Association. In 2009, Shudde, with the Save Barton Creek Association, received the Liveable Cities Environment Award, one of five Vision Awards given annually. She considered all of these as awards for just “putting it up”.

One of his favorite quotes was: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” His later life mantra was: You have to worry about something and work to make it happen; you cannot do it alone, you need help from others; You don’t win them all, but things could be worse if you hadn’t tried.

He especially appreciated the “flowers for the living” of later life, including the Austin City Council naming 77 acres near the northwest corner of the Loop 360/Mo-Pac South intersection as the Shudde Fath Tract in 2005; Austin Energy named the meeting room at Town Lake Center the Shudde Fath Conference Room in 2007; the Austin City Council designated June 22, 2007 as Shudde Fath Day; and the YWCA of Greater Austin honored her as their 2007 Woman of the Year in Government Service/Public Policy. She was then in the moment in August 2007, after Shudde was introduced to the crowd following a performance at the Zilker Hillside Theatre; a young woman in management for the Texas Workforce Commission came up and said, “You’re our hero” (27 years later!).

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After turning 90, he used to say, “Every day is a blessing.” In 2012, she was one of four women inducted into the Austin Women’s Hall of Fame by the Austin Women’s Commission; she and she received the Lifetime Conservation Community Hero Award from the Save Barton Creek Association. In November 2017, after retiring from the Electric Utility Commission, she received a Distinguished Service Award from the City of Austin, Texas.

In 2011, Shudde and Betsy compiled The Greatest Generation as reported in the Weekly Bastrop Advertiser during World War II. The book is a unique microcosm of World War II history told through more than 700 articles about 395 men and women (34 KIA; 8 POWs) whose names appear in a small-town newspaper (and whose editor kept in close contact with those in the military and their families.) Although she was blessed with manual skills, she was a lifelong technophobe who would not have accomplished any of this without the indispensable help of her keyboard genius daughter and son-in-law. from Google, Jeff Hiller.

In November 2017, Shudde and Betsy co-authored a book, Russell Lee in Color, containing 162 never-before-published color photographs taken by acclaimed photographer Russell Lee from a moving ship in 1963. Over 31 days, he and Conrad Fath brought a yacht up from New York City to Texas. The book also contains 27 never-before-published photos by or of Russell Lee, who was Conrad Fath’s best friend and fishing partner.

Any other productive writing that Shudde did during the last years of his long life was made possible by the luxury of an invaluable private secretary. Without owning a computer, Shudde handed over handwritten pages to Betsy, who produced a draft that was edited until Shudde finally received a beautifully printed product. Shudde was pathetic on the keyboard.

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She was so grateful and surprised by the successive celebrations of her 100th birthday; Celebratory remarks by Congressman Lloyd Doggett and others at the Save Barton Creek Association annual meeting, plus Proclamations by Rep. Elliot Naishtat for House, Brigid Shea for Travis County Commissioners Court, Delia Garza for Council Austin Municipal: Subsequent proclamations came from State Senator Kirk Watson and the Zilker Neighborhood Association; Shudde’s birthday celebration at an Electric Utility Commission meeting; plus a dinner with 140 of her nearest and dearest hosted by Betsy and Jeff. And then there was the message from the Paramount Theater marquee: HAPPY 103rd BIRTHDAY SHUDDE FATH; GREETINGS TO OUR GREAT LADY OF AUSTIN.

She was preceded in death by her husband Conrad Fath in 1990, “after fifty-two years of the best marriage I know of.” Conrad earned liberal arts and music degrees from UT, was a Certified Financial Planner, Evinrude Marine Distributor, Outdoorsman, Musician, Champion Fencer, Democrat, Civic Leader, great fun, and his wife’s “rock” , sounding board and ultimate critic.” He was also preceded in death by his parents (Lily earned a BA from UT in 1906 and “Doc” was a physician at UT Galveston Medical School in 1910) and his five siblings (with six more UT titles): Dorothy Ann Bryson, J. Gordon Bryson, Jr. MD, La Verne Bryson Holt, John Bennett Bryson, MD, and Mary Evelyn Bryson Loomer, and by in-laws Martha Louise Bryson, Pat Holt, Perry Loomer, Creekmore and Adele Fath.

She is survived by her precious caretaker daughter, Betsy Fath Hiller’s (BJ in UT) son-in-law, Jeff Hiller, as well as several loving nieces, nephews and cousins. As one may have guessed, Shudde wrote his own obituary of him, after

A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, December 18, 2022 at 2 pm at Weed-Corley-Fish at 5416 Parkcrest Drive in Austin, 512-452-8811. Memorial contributions can be made to Save Barton Creek Association, Save Our Springs Alliance, or Austin Pets Alive.

Obituary and guest book available online at

Published online on December 10, 2022

Posted in Austin American Statesman