Civil Servant Supports Old Dominion University Students
This opening line from the poem Afterglow featured at Frances M. Facchini’s March 2018 memorial service captures the essence of this effervescent Norfolk resident. Frances, a retired federal worker, was “outgoing and engaging and loved having people around,” says her cousin Faye Shealy of Williamsburg. “She was personable and loved life,” says former Norfolk neighbor David Pratt.
Frances enjoyed helping others, which she will be doing forever because of the charitable bequest she left to the Hampton Roads Community Foundation for scholarships at Old Dominion University.
Born in 1938 in Norfolk, Frances was the only child of Francis and Muriel Frost Facchini. Her grandparents, Michael and Minnie Turi Facchini, were Italian immigrants. He was a tailor in Norfolk known for the fine men’s suits he made and also the beautiful dresses he sewed for Frances, his only grandchild. Frances’ mother grew up in the Blackwater area of Virginia Beach, where Frances was fond of visiting.
Frances was six years old when her father, who had attended ODU and worked in sales, died. Her mother, a waitress at Norfolk’s Snug Harbor Restaurant, married Gus Costis eight years later.
Frances joined the workforce as a store clerk while attending Maury High School. She later took classes at ODU before beginning a 33-year civil service career. She started as a clerk-typist and retired after serving as personal secretary to seven commanders of Norfolk Naval Base and administrative assistant to four commanding generals of The Fleet Marine Force Atlantic.
“Frances was very intelligent and a self-starter,” says Bill Costis of Manassas, her step-brother.
A career highlight was serving as personal secretary to Sen. William B. Spong Jr. in Washington, D.C. from 1966 to 1972. Other than her time working on The Hill, Frances always lived in Norfolk. She cared for her mother until she passed away and always doted on her friends, relatives and dogs.
In a 1984 interview with The Virginian-Pilot, Frances described her work supporting numerous military base commanders as being “like the desk and the equipment. I go with the office and adapt to the person … and make it all run as smoothly and comfortably as possible.”
Visitors to Frances’ home in Norfolk’s Belvedere neighborhood enjoyed lively conversation and the music of Il Volo, an Italian operatic pop trio Frances adored. They typically got a heartfelt “I love you” when Frances bid them goodbye. Frances delighted in being generous during her lifetime and beyond. She donated her body to the Virginia State Anatomical Program where it helped Eastern Virginia Medical School students learn about anatomy.
Starting in 2020, the new Facchini Frost Fund at the community foundation, which is named for both sides of Frances’ family, will forever provide scholarships for area students attending ODU.