TIRANA–Bardyl Rifat Tirana, 85, died at his home in Nyack on April 22, 2023, with his wife of 37 years, artist Anne Bell Tirana, by his side. Born in Switzerland to Rifat Tirana, an Albanian economist, and Rosamond English Walling, an American artist, the family fled to the United States with the outbreak of World War II and settled in Washington D.C.
After his father’s death, he attended Phillips Academy Andover, Princeton and Columbia Law on scholarships and never forgot the generosity shown to him and the transformational power of access to education: He ran in the first local elections permitted in D.C., supporting a court decision to address gross racial inequalities evident in school funding, and served as a city-wide representative on the School Board from 1970-1974.
In 1980, he established and funded the China-Phillips Academy high school exchange program with the Harbin Institute of Technology, and went on to mentor scores of students, many of whom became lifelong friends. He later served on the Board of Princeton in Africa.
Bardyl began his legal career in the Justice Department during the Kennedy administration and, with his first wife Gail, worked for Robert F. Kennedy’s New York senatorial campaign in 1964. While in private legal practice, he organized transportation for Robert Kennedy’s primary campaign and the presidential campaigns of Kennedy, Sen. George McGovern and Gov. Jimmy Carter. He co-chaired Carter’s inauguration, creating an inclusive “public festival, the kind Governor Carter wants.”
As Director of Civil Defense in the Department of Defense under Carter, his recommendation that emergency response agencies be unified lead to the creation of FEMA.
Guided by his curiosity, his subsequent career was diverse. Legal work with Executive Jet Aviation took him across the Middle East. He served as a director of the Rocky Mountain Institute from 1982-1995 in support of energy sustainability, innovation and national security. He led a semiconductor manufacturing company, Technics, then returned to law, eventually as a solo practitioner. He loved how law could help people and solve a problem, conducting case research himself, “because you often don’t know what you are looking for until you see it,” or serving his community late in life as a judge for Grandview-on-Hudson, NY. Bardyl’s warmth and enthusiasm drew people in business, on the dance floor, and in the legal and racquet courts. Ever optimistic, Bardyl was never one to dodge a challenge. He mastered the arcane rules and etiquette of court tennis in his 70s, representing the US internationally.
As a student, Bardyl played poker to supplement his scholarships and loved all games, always infusing competition with fun. His favorite way to enter his beloved American convertible was not via its doors, but instead racing his passenger from the trunk and leaping into the driver’s seat. Bardyl was unfailingly loyal to and supportive of friends and family–always showing up to help, to see the performance or sports game, to join the birthday or enjoy a day at the beach. Most of all, to Anne, for whom he always found a way to make space for her career as an artist. Together, they chose the life they wanted to lead, both in Washington D.C. and in New York.
He is survived by his wife Anne; his brother Turhan (Denise Marcil); daughters Kyra (David Barry) and Amina (Anthony Oland); stepsons Jonathan (Anita), David (Helen) and Andrew (Jennifer) Bell; and grandchildren, Olivia, Jake and Charley Barry, Isabella Oland, and Julian, Joshua, Belinda, Libby, Christopher and Katherine Bell.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Bardyl Tirana Scholarship Fund at Phillips Academy, Andover; 180 Main Street, Andover, MA 01810.
Reprint from The New York Times on Apr. 26, 2023.