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A man named Faxon

WALSENBURG/ RATON/ TRINIDAD — There was once a man named Ralph Faxon who lived a long and useful life. He had many interests, many jobs, but most of all he might be described in today’s terminology a promoter. Faxon was born and raised in Kansas, in the Topeka area. He attended not only Washburn College but also several business and commercial schools. Then he went to work as a writer for a newspaper. From there he accepted the position of private secretary to U.S. Rep. Chester I. Long, later senator, of Kansas between 1899 and 1907. From 1908 until 1912 Faxon was owner and editor of the Garden City, KS, Evening Telegram. It was during his years in Garden City that Faxon began his long life of public service. He became active with the local chamber of commerce, serving as secretary for three years. Perhaps his crowning achievement during those years was spearheading the establishment of the Santa Fe Trail Association which is still active after more than 105 years. He also served as the organization’s president. Faxon also organized the Kansas Development Association in 1911, meanwhile serving as president

and secretary. This entity strove to start and assist chambers of commerce in many communities. Moving to Wichita, Faxon was secretary of the city’s Business Association from 1912 to 1914 and then secretary and treasurer of the International Farm Congress until 1915. Concurrently he had been secretary of the National Irrigation Congress and active Rotarian. He continued his chamber association in Iowa as well as his affiliation with national organizations. During the years before, during and after the First World War he worked with the military as well as the National Institute for Commercial and Trade Executives. By 1925 he was living in Colorado. In honor of its semi-centennial in 1926, the state was planning a huge commemoration and celebration. He was manager for this, and one of his responsibilities was helping to choose an appropriate theme song. This could have been called hazardous duty, for some of the tunes and lyrics submitted were close to criminal abuse to music and music lovers. While in Denver he was involved with business and businessmen as president of the Denver Advertising Club, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Advertising Agency, among many others. He relocated to Raton in 1934. In New Mexico he was a member of the state’s press association and secretary of the chamber of commerce. He was active with the Boy Scouts and received a national award. In late 1946 or early 1947 he moved to Walsenburg. He was hired to be manager and secretary of the Huerfano County Chamber of Commerce. His first tasks were to assist in getting a recognized airport as well as solving the parking jams in the City of Walsenburg. The second job was the easier to accomplish and in May 1947 the city purchased and installed 47 “parking meter instruments” with fines to commence almost immediately for violations. With a population of nearly 5,800 people and about 80 percent of the county’s commercial establishments in the city, parking presented a very real problem. The airport proved a knottier project but the local airstrip became an official, state-recognized airport the following year. About 1948 Faxon became the local representative to the Navajo Trail Association that was striving to secure a national highway from the Midwest to the Four Corners area and thence to California. Faxon’s mission was to ensure it passed through Walsenburg. Faxon was no doubt instrumental in obtaining use of the building at Fifth and Main in Walsenburg, now the home of the World Journal newspaper. The building was long the property of the Dick family and was known as the Dick-Workman building until the county purchased it in 1949 and gave it over to the use of the chamber which stayed there for another 30 years. At the same time the chamber had turned its persuasive efforts to the consideration of the city buying the old Coler Ditch Reservoir system. This was an ongoing battle for decades, and the city had already established a recreation area on the property west of town. However, titles to the land were iffy at best until the chamber and St. Sen. Sam T. Taylor assisted with the negotiations and Walsenburg became outright owner in 1949 of Martin and Horseshoe Lakes, ditches and pipelines, as well as the surrounding land. In 1950 Faxon took up the cause of the local veterans to rename Veta Peak northwest of La Veta for Pfc. Felix B. “Cowboy” Mestas, a local World War II hero. He pursued this goal for two years until fruition and dedication in June 1952. Otherwise in the early ‘50s, Faxon and the chamber took up such projects as improving the public tennis courts, receiving better television reception and rain-making. During the mid-‘50s the chamber turned its attentions to tourism. Annual brochures touted the city and its “suburbs”, La Veta, Gardner and Cuchara with all the recreational opportunities they offered. It also approached the Denver and Rio Grande railroad repeatedly when the company announced the end of passenger service through the county, to no avail. The chamber also sponsored “hospitality” workshops for Walsenburg merchants and sales clerks. In October 1954, Faxon was honored as “Mr. Navajo Trail” in festivities in Cortez. The highway had gained federal designation two years before, with no small thanks to Faxon. In all, he was secretary of the organization for more than 10 years. But then came tragedy. Ralph Faxon was struck by a hit and run driver in late January 1955 as he was crossing the street near Washington School. Rewards were offered but the driver was not found, and it took the elderly man more than a month to recuperate from his injuries and return to work. In 1958 Faxon was named Man of the Year by the chamber of commerce. The organization was at the time trying to help establish a ski resort on La Veta Pass, which was successful. By the spring of 1959 Faxon had been the chamber secretary and public face for 12 years. To coincide with his 85th birthday, a celebration was planned. This was to be “Ralph Faxon Day in Colorado” when all of his efforts on behalf of agriculture and irrigation, travel, the chamber and other interests would be recognized by local and state organizations. Despite a vigorous “Pat for First Lady” campaign in 1960, not a single Republican vote was cast in September’s primary election in one of Walsenburg’s precincts, so it may have been less than an honor when Faxon was elected chairman of the Huerfano County Republican Party that year. In December 1960 Faxon announced his retirement from the chamber after 13 years. Soon after, having outlived three wives, Faxon moved into what was then called the Trinidad Home for the Aged. He died in Trinidad Oct. 29, 1965, at the age of 91. You may have never heard the name of Ralph Faxon, but some of his lasting contributions include his promotion of a federal highway, the national Santa Fe Trail Association, a monument to a Huerfano hero, the ski industry, and the Walsenburg water system.

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