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April 27th, 2017 under Obituaries
Alan Vana

Alan Vana

It is with great sadness we announce that John Alan Vana died in the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine. Alan had been suffering from a chronic heart ailment and recently returned to his home in Marfa after being treated at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.

A public memorial service will be held at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 101 East Washington Street in Marfa, today, Thursday, April 27, at 10am. Immediately following the service there will be a potluck celebration of Alan at the Crowley Theater, 98 South Austin Street in Marfa.

Alan was a professional bodybuilder, physical trainer, and the owner of Ironheart Bodybuilding and Fitness Gym in Marfa, which opened in 2009 in a building on the southeastern part of town and later relocated to the old Masonic Lodge on the downtown corner of Highland and Texas Streets.

Born in El Paso on June 27, 1961 and raised in Balmorhea, Alan was diagnosed shortly after birth with Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (a heart defect of the left ventricle) and underwent open heart surgery at the age of nine to address the condition. He was operated on again at the age of eleven.

Alan attended high school in Pecos and Alpine and college at West Texas State and Sul Ross State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in 1985, specializing in oil painting and large-scale murals. Alan led a rich and varied career in several fields. Between 1994-1996 he worked as a Drilling Fluids Engineer for Key Energy, Odessa. In 1996-2009 he worked as a Manufacturing Technician Specialist of microcontroller computers at Spansion, Austin. In Tucson he was a certified firefighter. Always interested in physical fitness, he was a competitive cyclist until weight training and bodybuilding became his main interest, and what he considered his new art form. He said, “I want anyone I’m training to be asked, how did you get to look like that? And be told, oh, you need to see Alan.”

In 1996 Alan had an artificial heart valve installed to alleviate his heart defect. Complications resulting from the procedure led to impairments of his vision and hearing. However, he continued to pursue his weight training and physical fitness, leading to his being awarded First Place in competitive bodybuilding four years in a row by the Natural Bodybuilding Federation. During this time Alan operated a gym in Austin and became established as a trainer specializing in professional bodybuilding.

In 2006 a fourth open heart surgery was required. Following that surgery and desiring to return to West Texas, Alan relocated to Alpine in 2009 and opened Ironheart Bodybuilding and Fitness Gym in Marfa. In 2009 Alan married Edsel Quiachon, and in 2010 they had a son, Gavin.

Inside the gym and out, Alan was well known in Marfa for his expertise as a trainer and his commitment to physical fitness, as well as his good humor, patience, and devout faith. “I love this job,” he said. “And I love people. And that is what is so gratifying about this for me, because I want people to feel good about themselves, and gain self-confidence.” The gym’s name, Ironheart, is a direct reference to his first metal heart valve replacement. “I give glory to God for allowing me to keep going.”

Alan worked with people of all ages and backgrounds and his gym quickly became an essential part of the Marfa community. He was renowned for his anatomical knowledge and the great care he brought to working with each person he trained. His challenging workouts, especially his abdominal exercises and gluteal lunges—during which a client was required to lunge in full strides across the length of the gym floor bearing weights—became as legendary as they were feared. A beloved member of the community, Alan formed many meaningful friendships with all types of people in the region.

Alan underwent cardiac surgery for the fifth time in 2016. The procedure was largely successful and soon thereafter he was back to taking care of people at the gym. However, in recent weeks he began experiencing trouble with his health again and sought treatment at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, after which he elected to return home to his family.

Alan is survived by his wife Edsel, son Gavin, and stepdaughter Dana Pante of Marfa; parents John Vana Sr. of Los Angeles and Betty Lou Beach; stepfather Sam Beach; sister Andrea Covington, her husband Carl Covington, their children Julia, Emma, Johanna, and Alyn of Alpine; Alan’s stepbrother Cory Beach of Albuquerque, NM; aunt Maryanne Battock; and cousins Bonnie Lucio, Ben Battock, and Beth Crowner of Dallas.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church or The Chinati Foundation in Marfa.

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