By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Arts and Cultural Center lost one of its strongest advocates last week.
And the city of Niagara Falls lost one too.
The Rev. Hal Faba, former executive director and past president of the board of directors at the NACC, passed away on Wednesday. He was 84.
The two of us crossed paths for the first time in the early 2000s after former Mayor Irene Elia called on him to lead an effort to save the old Niagara Falls High School building from the wrecking ball.
By all accounts, Faba was a “catalyst” behind the building’s resurrection, bringing all the top qualities of a strong leader — energy, passion and personality.
The result: Today the NACC serves as a home away from home for local children and families and dozens of area artists and non-profit groups.
Geri Mitro, a city resident and early advocate for saving the building, said she believes the community should be thankful to Faba for his help in making the effort a success.
“He was very instrumental in getting the success that we got and he was there picking it up to run with it once we got it,” Mitro said.
For current NACC Executive Director Kathie Kudela, Faba was a constant source of strength, someone she could lean on and count on when times got tough.
“He guided us through all those early beginnings at a really difficult time,” Kudela, recalling Faba’s contributions to the NACC and its predecessor, Save Our Schools of Niagara, Inc. “He was always so strong. He was just the rock in the beginning. He really was.”
The process of saving the historic Pine Avenue structure wasn’t always easy, Kudela said, but it was made easier by having people like Faba around.
“He was always a very charismatic figure and really could draw people to any organization,” Kudela said. “I think he really set the atmosphere for the NACC because it’s a very caring place.”
While he’ll be forever linked to the Pine Avenue building they call “The Grand Lady,” Faba was so much more. Much more than I knew as it turns out.
He was a man of many talents and interests.
For example, he was, as Kudela put it, a tremendous singer who put his talent to use with the likes of the Lewiston Choraleers, Holy Family Parish at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church Site Choir and the Mary Mitchell Singers.
Faba was also an accomplished actor and director, having appeared in or guided many plays and musicals for the Western Door Theatre, Theatre in the Mist and Niagara Falls Little Theatre.
Faba was a spiritual man too, serving as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Wilson and Sanborn Baptist Church, as well as Chaplain of the Niagara Falls Air Base.
Most of my post-NACC dealings with Faba came during meetings of the city’s planning board, where he served as a long-time member.
In recent years, he relied on the assistance of a cane to help him get to and from meetings.
He took great pride in living up to his responsibilities as a board member even on days when, physically, he may not have been entirely up for it.
My colleague, Michele DeLuca, wrote a story earlier this year about Faba’s most recent work as director of “Over The Tavern” for the NACC’s Woodbox Theater. He acknowledged in March that it may well be his final directorial piece. He talked about wanting to do more, provided his health would allow it.
He also talked about being satisfied with “Over The Tavern,” his love for the cast and their performances.
It’s only fitting that Faba’s curtain call came at the NACC, a building he helped preserve in a community he cherished.Contact City Editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.