By Celine Klosterman
FORT MADISON — For Derek Vandenberg, it sometimes feels strange to pass by the office where he used to chat with his principal, Richard Facciolo.
“I’d see him in there every day and wave,” recalled the senior at Holy Trinity Catholic Junior/ Senior High School. The two often talked about sports; “he was always up to date on what was going on,” Vandenberg said. “He was really nice, down to earth and easy to talk to.”
After a memorial service at the school March 22, the student and others were still processing the loss of Holy Trinity’s chief administrator. Facciolo had died the previous night at Great River Hospice House in West Burlington at age 61.
Several members of the Holy Trinity community described him as a private man who hadn’t spoken of his sufferings, though many noticed he had grown thin in the weeks before his death. Within a couple years before coming to Holy Trinity in summer 2011, he’d undergone surgery for colon cancer that had returned in the past few months, Father David Wilkening said during the memorial service. On March 12, Facciolo went on medical leave.
“He had a will of iron. Even when he was very sick, he continued coming to school because he was so committed to his job,” said the pastor of parishes in Fort Madison and Montrose.
The administrator was a man of faith, too, who sometimes stopped into church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, Fr. Wilkening recalled.
“Dr. Facciolo died before his time.” But disciples of Jesus believe death is a new beginning, the priest noted. “That is our hope for Dr. Facciolo and ourselves — to one day enjoy eternal life.”
“Although we have only known Dr. Facciolo for a short while, we are deeply saddened by this loss and we extend our sympathies to his family,” said Lee Morrison, superintendent of schools for the Davenport Diocese. “We pray that he might enjoy eternal peace.”
Facciolo had a long history in Catholic education. Before coming to Holy Trinity, he was superintendent of Bishop Hoffman Catholic School System in Fremont, Ohio, and earlier had served as president of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas for 10 years. He also had worked as superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nev.
While principal at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Redlands, Calif., in 1995, he was shot in the face, reportedly by a troubled 13-year-old male student in Facciolo’s office. Dozens of facial reconstructive surgeries followed.
He returned to the school later that year. “I enjoyed my job,” he told the Las Vegas Sun. “I wasn’t going to allow this incident to be barometer by which the school was measured. I wanted the students to see the consequences, to see me come back. It was therapeutic.”
Facciolo’s family said he dearly loved Holy Trinity students, said Father Dennis Hoffman, pastor of parishes in West Point and Farmington.
The school arranged for students to sign a quilt to present to the late administrator’s relatives.
“He was kind and caring; he wanted to know how he could make things easier for students. He cared what they thought,” said senior Trent Pieper.
“When he spoke, the kids listened,” said John Goetz, Holy Trinity’s athletic director. Facciolo had a good relationship with the senior class, especially.
He liked music, played the guitar and was a Notre Dame fan, Goetz recalled. But Facciolo often kept to himself. “I don’t think many people got to know him. I would’ve liked to know him better.”
Retired Holy Trinity administrator Doris Turner flew in from her Idaho home last week to serve as interim administrator. She’ll be at the school until April 3, and will travel back and forth afterwards until the end of the school year, she said. Morrison will fill in when she’s not available.
“We’ve all worked hard for this school and want a smooth transition,” Turner said. “We don’t always know why things happen, but the Lord helps us deal with them.”
Obituary for Richard Facciolo
Dr. Richard Anthony Facciolo, 61 years, of Fort Madison, died Wednesday, March 21, 2012, at Great River Hospice House, West Burlington. He was born Jan. 17, 1951, at Wilmington, Del., a son of Amillio Anthony and Frances (Marra) Facciolo. He moved to Fort Madison in 2011 and was the Chief Administrative Officer and Principal of Holy Trinity Catholic Schools. He was of the Catholic faith. Dr. Facciolo had a passion for his students and their success.
He is survived by his wife, Suzanne Facciolo, his mother, Frances Facciolo, of Wilmington, Del.; one brother, Frank (wife Erin) Facciolo, of Wilmington; two nephews, Anthony and Alexander; one niece, Stephanie; and his students and their families. He was preceded in death by his father, and one brother, Steven Facciolo.
Per his wishes, his body has been cremated. A memorial service was held at the Holy Trinity Catholic High School on Thursday, March 22. A memorial service will be held at a later date in his hometown in Delaware. A memorial has been established for Holy Trinity Catholic Schools or Great River Hospice House. Contributions may be made at the Barr Memorial Chapel or the school.
— Barr Memorial Chapel, Fort Madison, and Barr-Holtkamp Funeral Home, West Point