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WESTFIELD, NJ — Dedication and social justice resonated in the life of Patricia Faggins, a founder of both the Westfield Neighborhood Council and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield, organizations she stayed with throughout her life, people close to her said.
Faggins, a lifelong resident of the town, died on Sunday. She was 78. In recent years, Faggins served as treasurer of both the MLK Association and the Neighborhood Council.
“She was a hard worker,” said Carol Mercer, president of the Neighborhood Council, which through education and outreach works to break down socioeconomic barriers. “She was always interested in improving people’s skills as far as education.”
Mary Withers, a Neighborhood Council trustee, who worked with Faggins to form the nonprofit, recalled that the effort aimed at helping children from lower income households began in a bakery on Stirling Place before it moved to a synagogue and then a nearby church. Finally, she said, the center found its home on Cacciola Place.
In 1969, the center became formally incorporated as a nonprofit, something Faggins helped to make happen.
“Pat was always one of the lead people because she had so much technical background, secretarial skills and knowledge,” said Withers, 82.
Harold Cohen had known Faggins for some 50 years and described her as a person who gave of herself.
“From time to time what concerned her was there were people in the community that didn’t think she was doing enough, and in fact, she was doing everything,” said Cohen, 94. “She was doing favors. She was striving. She was doing everything that needed to be done. She was terrific.”
Several people remembered Faggins for her piano skills — something she conveyed to children through her work at the Neighborhood Council.
“We were working on a program now at the center to teach kids to play the piano,” Mercer said. “That was a project that was dear to her heart.”
Elizabeth Wolf, president of the MLK Association, recalled that several years ago Faggins had shared her music at the association’s annual MLK Day service, reflecting one among Faggins’ aptitudes.
“She was just a multifaceted, true renaissance person,” Wolf said. “She played the piano, and it was just lovely. It was astonishing. Everyone was blown away.”
In a town of about 30,000 people, Faggins was well known.
“I’d say half the town of Westfield knows Pat,” said Donnell Carr, a past president of the MLK Association. “We’re all grieving. We’re all missing Pat.”
Carr noted her service to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield — service that dates back 34 years to its founding.
“She has been the inspiration for this association over the years,” Carr said. “She was the glue that kept that association together. From a personal perspective, she was a very kind and considerate person. She was also intelligent, very intelligent.”
Each year, Faggins would put together a display for Black History Month at the Westfield Memorial Library. This year, she was in the hospital, but Mercer noted that her final moments came during that month.
“She died Feb. 28,” Mercer said. “Black History Month wasn’t over.”
A parishioner of the nearby Metropolitan Baptist Church in Scotch Plains, Faggins played in the church’s choir, Mercer said.
Faggins, who had three children, had recently become a great-grandmother, Wolf said.
“We will feel this loss for a very long time,” she said. “Basically, everything that we do during the year, she was a part of, but we will still have her in our mind as we do the things we do going forward.”
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