1916 – 2018
Joe Feiccabrino believed in fixing things. He repaired electronic devices large and small: keeping commercial coolers humming, furnaces warming homes, kitchen stoves cooking, irrigation pumps pulling water from the ground and countless appliances doing the work they meant to long after warranties expired.
He rarely threw anything away in 70 years of working in Huerfano County homes, ranches, dairies and downtown restaurants.
A longtime civic leader and businessman, Joe died Tuesday, May 15, 2018, at the Spanish Peaks Veterans Community Living Center, where he had lived for one month. He was 102.
Joe was born January 14, 1916, to Alfonso and Antonina (Spagnola) Feiccabrino, in their farmhouse in Aguilar. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Walsenburg, where Joe attended schools and would live the rest of his life.
Huerfano County residents are most likely to remember Joe as the proprietor of J&L Electric, a Main Street landmark that he owned and operated for more than 50 years.
He went to work for Poli Electric in 1941, seeking to learn to become an electrician. The owner, Leonard Poli, died eight months after Joe went to work for him, so with his brother Louis, Joe bought the business and taught himself the trade. They renamed the shop three years later.
A medical condition barred Joe from enlisting in the Navy during World War II and he was classified a civilian “essential,” which put him in a program to perform public works projects in Walsenburg.
A Huerfano High School friend and classmate, Chuck Rino, arranged a blind date for Joe with Emma Stringari (who was a younger sister to Chuck Rino’s wife, Irene). Joe and Emma hit it off immediately.
Emma was serving as a Navy nurse in a burn unit at Shoemaker Naval Hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area. She had grown up with eight brothers and sisters on a family farm in Canon City. Joe surprised her with a marriage proposal on a Valentine’s Day evening.
They married in St. Mary’s Church on September 5, 1944, a close union that endured until Emma’s death on September 18, 2013. In the early years of the marriage they lived in a complex known as the Bain Apartments with Chuck and Irene and other young couples, some of whom became lifelong friends.
Emma joined Joe at J&L in 1961 and it was rare to see one without the other, except when Joe was on a call fixing a pump or refrigeration for one of the dairy or cattlemen who came to rely on him.
The work frequently included after-hours and weekend service calls. Emma often joined Joe on trips to remote corners of the county. She would put together a portable meal and, on occasion, bring one or more of their three children along to make a family picnic out of the errand.
Years after he closed J&L and retired, Joe continued to take repair calls into his 90s, working out of a garage cluttered with materials and salvaged parts no longer available from manufacturers or traditional suppliers.
Family members knew him as an ingenious repairman, up to any fix-it challenge that came his way. Once on the way to a planned picnic on the Greenhorn in the late 60s, a rock punctured the gas tank on the family Mercury as the sedan bounced along on a rough patch of unpaved road. With escaping fuel threatening to strand the group, Joe cut off a section of his leather belt and, with a small bolt, screwed the scrap of leather into the hole to stanch the leak with plenty of gas left in the tank.
The patch held for years.
Joe served as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the St. Mary’s Cemetery Association Board of Directors, the St. Mary’s Booster Club and the Elks’ Club. He was a Grand Knight with the Knights of Columbus and a President of the Walsenburg Rotary Club. He refereed high school basketball games and was there to say yes when school or church officials came for help with something that needed fixing.
Joe was preceded in death by his wife Emma and brothers Louis and Benny. He is survived by his three children, Joseph (Barbara) Feiccabrino, Arleen Feiccabrino, Marla (Luke) Clarke; grandchildren Joseph Feiccabrino, Barbara George, Shawn Feiccabrino, and James Feiccabrino; Aaron Wagner, Nathan (Jennifer Vierthaler) Wagner and Rebecca (Adam) Garcia; Patrick Clarke and Antonina Clarke; great grandchildren Cyndi George; Makenna Garcia, Emma Garcia and Avery Wagner; great-great grandson Draven Morton; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Joe’s remains were cremated. A service is planned at St. Mary’s Church for July 28 at 10 a.m., to be followed by a celebration of life picnic. Family suggests contributions to the Spanish Peaks Veterans Community Living Center or Sister Carol Tlach, Senior Outreach, P.O. Box 86, Walsenburg, CO.