One of Primo Facchini's favorite stories was the time he missed a Walnut Creek City Council meeting and the city clerk called him to see if he was OK. His attendance was so regular for more than four decades ("He was considered a sixth member of the council," Councilwoman Cindy Silva said) that a meeting didn't seem official without him in his front-row seat.
Facchini also loved to talk about his 35 years with the Walnut Creek Historical Society, where he was president and, later, chairman of the board. He relished his role in establishing Walnut Creek's sister-city program with Noceto, Italy. As a first-generation immigrant fluent in Italian, he also served as translator.
That's when he wasn't busy as a director of the Alamo-Lafayette Cemetery District, or a board member for the Selective Service System Region III, or a public member of the California State Bar's Planning Directory and Fee Arbitration Office.
"He was dedicated to seeing that things were done correctly," said former Walnut Creek Mayor Gwen Regalia.
"The word that comes to mind is tireless," said Brad Rovenpara, the city's former public information officer. "He devoted the better part of 40 years to the community."
"He was the Energizer bunny," said Rosemary Mazzetti, vice president of the historical society.
It's little wonder that Facchini was the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce's 2013 UXL Citizen of the Year. He could have qualified any year. That's why his death Saturday, at age 83, left such an enormous vacuum.
There weren't enough hours in the day for Facchini, a Korean War veteran whose passions included photography and symphony but who found time for the occasional episode of "Jeopardy" or "Judge Judy" with Rosemarie, his wife of 58 years. His business was real estate but his avocation was gardening at his Alamo home and as a member of both the Rhododendron Society and the Northern California Camellia Society.
Mostly, though, he was advocate for his adopted city of Walnut Creek from the moment he purchased property there in 1969 and attended a council meeting, because "I wanted to know what was going on," he said four years ago.
He believed in preserving the city's past but not at the expense of its growth.
"I like to talk in analogies," he once explained. "When we were born, we were small. Then we grew. The same thing happens to communities."
Regalia, a council member for 21 years, couldn't remember a meeting when Facchini wasn't around, usually speaking on behalf of a community project.
"He attended every single City Council meeting, planning commission meeting and, I think, transportation commission meeting since the '70s," she said. "He was a proper gentleman -- always in a shirt and tie -- who dedicated an enormous amount of time to community activities."
"The irony," said Rovenpara, "is he wasn't even a Walnut Creek resident. He lived in Alamo. Walnut Creek was his adopted community."
He guided the renovation of the historical society's Shadelands facility, oversaw fund-raising events and lobbied for a downtown history museum. After 11 years as president, he became the organization's first chairman of the board.
"We never had a chairman before, and we'll never have another," Mazzetti said. "The title will be retired with him."
Primo Facchini was one of a kind.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.