Mary Fain

February 06, 1932 ‒ December 18, 2020

Mansfield, Ohio

**For family and friends who would want to view Mary’s memorial service on Sunday January 17th at 2 pm, please leave a condolence below with your email address and a message stating your interest in watching her service, and her family will connect with you directly.**


MANSFIELD: Mary Fain passed away of COVID-19 in Mansfield, OH on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 at the age of 88. Born in New York City on Feb. 6, 1932 to Max and Ethel Fain,  Mary was a child music prodigy in classical piano, learning first at the Henry Settlement House and then under Gertrude Kramer. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in music and completed coursework for an M.A. at UC-Berkeley. Mary also studied music composition and choral conducting as a Hertz Fellow at the Vienna Academy of Music in Austria from 1959-60 and was an accompanist to Pablo Casals’ chamber music summer course in Zermatt, Switzerland in 1960.

Mary became a classical music radio announcer, starting at KING FM in Seattle and then later at KFAC in Los Angeles until it was converted to a rock music station. A Sept. 20, 1989 New York Times article by Seth Mydans quoted Mary as saying on her last show at KFAC, “That was Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathetique’ Symphony, composed just a few months before his death, and played just a few hours before ours here at KFAC.”

In 1990, Mary moved to KUNI/KHKE in Cedar Falls, IA as Director of Classical Music and Senior Fine Arts Producer where she constructed classical programming and supported live music in the Cedar Valley community. She was a skilled public broadcaster with a vast knowledge of classical music history and musicology. Mary retired in Cedar Falls in 1998. In honor of Mary, Iowa Public Radio published this article at

Throughout her career, Mary interviewed and befriended many renowned classical conductors and musicians. Listeners to classical music radio in the cities where she worked will remember her distinctive voice and interviewing skills. Those close to her delighted in her piano playing and cooking.

In addition to her passion for music, Mary loved animals, travel, great food, casinos, and just causes. She also enjoyed participating as a Democrat in the Iowa caucuses. Mary traveled the world and had a strong zest for life. She leaves behind her niece Maddy Ellis and spouse Jim, her nephew Jonathan Fain and spouse Erin, grandnephews Rob, Ben, Danny, Max, Levi and Bram, grandniece Susan, and many beloved cousins and friends. Mary is predeceased by her parents and brother Hack.

A virtual service honoring Mary will be held on Sunday, January 17th at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial donation to the Nature Conservancy at or Iowa Public Radio at

  • I met Mary through my mother, Nancy Newell. I loved Mary’s dinners and her wonderful cats. I remember showing her how to use a digital camera before she traveled to Europe. She’s an incredible, vibrant woman who truly lived her life. Her passing is such a loss for us all.

    To her family and inner circle of friends, I am so terribly sorry for your loss. I wish I had better words of comfort to offer you. Know that Mary touched many lives in ways we’ll never know.

  • Maddy, with tears in my eyes, my condolences. I know how she adored you. I met Mary in 1973 soon after she came to Seattle and we immediately became close friends. We shared a love of music, art, and animals. Mary was a superb musician who suffered from stage fright, who worked at jobs that failed to make the most of her abundant talents, and who amassed a large group of devoted friends. She was highly intelligent, well-read, and had a great sense of humor. I loved her and missed having her in my everyday life after she went on to LA and Iowa. We managed to see each other during her visits to Seattle and mine to the midwest. We had last talked a couple of years ago. I’ve been thinking about her during this awful year, meaning to try to get in touch, possibly deading the possibility that “Ms. Mary” would not be on the other end of the phone or the Email. And now it’s come to pass. Maddy, she often spoke of you with a great deal of love and pride. We all cherish memories of an extraordinary lady.

  • I met Mary while working at UNI. She and Alice Swensen were good friends and I also met many other wonderful women through both of them. Mary had the piano in her lovely home and a few times she played it when I asked. Mostly, Mary and I bopped around thrift stores, Big Lots (she showed me the canned stuffed grape leaves you could only get there) and I think she appreciated what she called my ‘sense of whimsy.’ She was a good egg all around. I often think I hear here on the radio!!

  • Mary was a wonderful and greatly admired friend and colleague during her years in Seattle, when I was classical music critic of The Seattle Times. We met frequently at concerts and events, and occasionally for lunches where many anecdotes and ideas were exchanged. She had an amazing “radio voice,” instantly recognizable and much admired, and her encyclopedic knowledge of music and musicians was legendary.
    After she left Seattle, we fell out of touch … addresses and email addresses changed, and so did circumstances. But I am so sad to learn of her passing. The world is a little less interesting and rewarding place without her in it. Sincere condolences to her family and all who were lucky enough to have Mary in their lives.

  • I remember fondly so many visits and family events in which I was fortunate enough to be included that I shared with Mary and so many of dear Hack’s relatives. (I was his teaching assistant for three years and was so very fortunate to be so welcomed by his family at so many family events.) To say Mary was a formidable and brilliant and warm woman is to understate her nature, but I just cannot think of sufficient admiring adjectives. I treasure the whole family beyond words. Mary treated me like a daughter whenever I was in her presence. I will never forget her kind, loving nature as well as her brilliance. As I used to trade Hack whenever we discussed any member of his family. “Brain fever!” (Meaning totally brilliant, which is true of all his family.) My heart breaks for everyone who knew Mary, since we all are at a loss for losing her gift of love and light to us all.

  • I met Mary many years ago in Seattle, and we became very good friends. We saw one another at least once a week. She was bright as all get-out and could be wickedly funny. She would sit at the piano and announce “And now ‘Happy Birthday’ as Wagner would have composed it..” If I recall, she once had a radio program called “Eine Nine o’ Clock Music”. She was a charter member of “The Houseboat Players”. Her voice was unforgettable, as was her laughter. We will always cherish the memory of “Lady Fain”, as
    will all others who were fortunate enough to have he in their lives.

  • Mary was a special friend of mine during her years in Seattle. I never gave up expecting to see her or hear her; it seemed that she just Was There. We shared a love of Poodles. She adopted a gorgeous black Miniature Poodle from a litter born at my house and they shared many happy years and adventures together. Working together in the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Mary and I had wonderful times and agonizing times. It was all a great adventure. Mostly I will always remember the special private times that meant so much to both of us. She was a great human being and she will always be missed.

  • My sympathy to all of Mary’s family and many friends.
    A mutual friend introduced Mary to me after her retirement. We hit it off in so many dimensions: New Yorkers by birth, political junkies, enthusiastic readers and talkers. I especially remember Mary coaching me on what to expect when a cruise opportunity came to me (I knew nothing) and generously lending me a stunning multicolored shawl for the journey. She was a delight and a treasure.

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