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Former Victoria Judge dies, leaves behind legacy of friendliness

By BY GHENI PLATENBURG
June 10, 2011 at 1:10 a.m.

Former district judge and county judge, Frank Crain, died Thursday of natural causes. He was 90.

memorial service:

When: 11 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Trinity Episcopal Church, 1501 N. Glass St.

Other: Crain will be buried in a private service. Those wishing to pay their respects are invited to the attend the public memorial service.

Frank H. Crain never met anyone he considered to be a stranger.

Known for his friendliness, the former Victoria County district judge and county judge treated everyone he came across as if they were longtime friends.

"It didn't matter if he was waiting in line or leaving an appointment, he would stop and chat with people," said Julie Heinitsch, Crain's youngest daughter. "He treated everyone he met as if they were the most important person in the world."

Crain's bright smile and jovial demeanor now lives on in the memories of his family and friends, those he knew personally and those he met in passing.

He died Thursday of natural causes at the age of 90.

A Victoria native, he graduated from Patti Welder High School in 1938.

He went on to take courses at Victoria College and the Schreiner Institute before entering law school at the University of Texas in 1941, following in his father's and grandfather's attorney footsteps.

In January 1942, Crain joined the U.S. Army, shipping out in 1943 shortly after marrying his then girlfriend, Olive "Bitty" Bell.

During his time in the Army, Crain served as a platoon leader with the 10th Mountain Division, Infantry.

He left the Army in December 1945, just a week shy of four years of service.

Afterward, he returned to law school and soon after moved to Victoria to begin work as a lawyer.

In February 1952, Crain ran for and won the office of Victoria County judge.

Crain later went on to serve as state representative in 1953, during which time he sat on the motor traffic, state affairs and game and fisheries committees

Shortly into his second term as county judge, however, Crain took on the role of district judge, taking over for former district judge Frank W. Martin, who died while in office.

"He always viewed himself as a public servant," said Heinitsch, 55. "He wanted whatever he did to have a direct impact on the people he served."

Despite his busy political and professional life, Crain's daughters said he always made time for his family.

A self-proclaimed tomboy in her younger years, Heinitsch recalled some of the precious father-daughter moments she and Crain spent together.

"I'd be playing with babies in the morning and be waiting with my football for when my daddy came home in the evening," said Heinitsch. "It didn't matter how tired he was, he would get out there with me and throw the ball around."

Heinitsch also reminisced about Saturday routines of going to the courthouse with her dad then enjoying lunch at Fossatti's.

"I wanted to be just like Daddy," she said.

Crain retired from the bench in 1988, but soon after went on to serve on the board of the law firm then known as Cole, McManus, Cole, Easley and Bell.

He retired from the firm in 2003 but still accepted pro bono cases occasionally.

Despite his ability to be tough in the courtroom, Crain showcased his sense of humor whenever he could.

"He would joke, "When your children start getting on Medicare that means you're getting old," laughed Pam Crain, 66, one of Crain's four daughters, between tears. "He would start in on a tale and have everyone in stitches. His laugh would fill a room."

Crain's daughters said they will always remember the life lessons their father taught them.

"The respect that he had for people and a general concern with their well being and happiness, we were taught that by example," said Bebe Crain, 64.

Throughout the years, Crain spent his time serving on the boards of various organizations, reading, exercising at the YMCA, being faithful members of St. Francis Episcopal Church and spending time with his wife, said his daughters.

Crain is survived by three daughters, his wife, two grandchildren and a host of other relatives.

He is preceded in death by his parents and a daughter, Katherine Crain.

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