Joan Facchinello, 79, says she’s not ready to give up her ponytails.
“My individuality says I’ll just keep them,” she said. “When I grow up, I will use makeup, dress up, cut my hair and do all the right things. Until that time, I’m just who I am.”
The ponytails suit Facchinello, the 2013 Western Welcome Week grand marshal, chosen to embody the theme, “Spirit of the West.”
“‘Spirit of the West’ means that you can survive, and you can participate, and you grow with things,” she said. “You see what people endured and how they did things with nothing. It’s the adventure. You never say you can’t do something, you find a way to do it.”
She’s also the epitome of WWW’s slogan, “Celebrate Community.”
“I’m a people person,” she said simply. “That’s just what it’s all about.”
Ken Coddington says that’s the best thing of a lot of great things about Facchinello. She was his secretary when he was a principal at Littleton Public Schools, where she worked in a variety of capacities for 33 years.
“She really cares, and she follows through and is always there to help,” he said.
The two have also worked together for the Rockies baseball franchise, and Coddington once saw her give the jacket off her back to a fan of the opposing team on a really cold day.
Little things like that are a staple of her life — she sews Rockies patches onto stocking caps and hands them out to kids who look like they need them. She gives blood prolifically. She organizes reunion lunches for LPS employees and Jaycees. She volunteers at an assisted-living facility and takes treats to clients of Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network.
Her official job with the Rockies is helping people in wheelchairs get to their seats.
“That is a priceless job, the best job in the whole world,” she said.
For years she took pictures of the fans so they could have a keepsake — just because she wanted to. She once attended a funeral for one of them and was touched to see the photo she took next to the coffin.
Facchinello doesn’t belong to any formal organizations, but she participates in the activities of many. She donates Rockies attire to Inter-Faith Community Services, takes tickets at the Lions Club BBQ during WWW and so much more.
“She is a Littleton treasure,” said Cindy Hathaway, WWW executive director. “She is so giving to so many and has been an unbelievable supporter of Western Welcome Week. We are honored to recognize her as our Grand Marshal and to award her with the Western Welcome Week Houstoun Waring Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Facchinello’s family moved a lot when she was young, and she thinks that’s partly why community and lasting friendships are so important to her now.
“It’s friendships that I am proud of,” she said. “I truly believe friends are the most important thing in the whole world.”
Littleton’s many opportunities for fellowship are what make it so special, she says.
“You feel welcome everywhere you go,” she said.
She and her husband of 62 years, Ray, met when she was in seventh grade at Grant Junior High School, now the Littleton Public Schools administration building.
“Good ol’ Ray and crazy Joan, they called us,” she remembers. “It was one of those things that was truly meant to be.”
Her biggest regret in life, she says, is standing up a nice boy in high school. She always felt guilty and meant to apologize, until she heard he’d died.
“You can hurt somebody’s feelings just as easy as you can make them happy,” she said. “You want people to remember the good things about you.”