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May 28, 2010

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Friends tap hearts for brewer

THE friends of Gary Heyne - co-owner and brewmaster of the Boxing Cat Brewery, and now sadly missed - are doing what they can to help him get back to Texas.

Heyne, whose outsized personality helped make the Boxing Cat a favorite watering hole and restaurant in the expat community, was found dead on Sunday on the floor of the bar's Minhang District branch. He was 45.

Now his work associates and friends are gathering donations to help pay for his remains to be sent back to his native Houston and for his wife and two-year-old daughter to be able to attend the funeral there.

"He is unique, unlike everybody else," said Mike Solovey, the executive chef of Boxing Cat, who is helping coordinate the donation drive. "He had many talents. He was a food enthusiast as well as a musician."

It is unclear whether Heyne suffered from heart attack or stroke or something else. But it was a "natural cause" and there is no police involvement, Solovey said.

He said there is no specific goal of the donation amount. "Any type of help will be fine," he said.

"The priority is taking good care of his family."

A funeral is scheduled to be held in Shanghai on Tuesday, according to the bar's Website: which also contains details of the fund-raising drive.

The bar plans to follow that with a party in Gary's honor in the afternoon on June 6, the Website said.

Born and raised in Houston, and living brief stints in Tripoli, Libya, Singapore and Europe, Heyne had a lifelong passion for brewing and guitars.

He was in Iraq in 2003 to build water treatment plants, and he was sure he had a "book in him," friends said. He was trying to find a co-author to complete the Iraq memoir he started.

He came to Shanghai in 2006 to start his first bar, Henry's Brewery by the Bund, and then opened Boxing Cat, on Fuxing Road in Xuhui District, with Kelley Lee in 2008. He met his wife in the city and called Shanghai "his home." Kelley Lee, who was not in the city yesterday, could not be reached for comment.

But on the Website, she wrote: "Gary was not only my partner but a dear friend and brother to me. His kooky ideas, heart for people, love of brewing and passion for life will be more than missed."

Many expats and Heyne's friends said online that it's a sad loss.

"He had a million beer-fueled theories about the war, and about Iraq, and about any other topic that might come up," wrote James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, who lived in the city in 2006 and 2007.


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