Life stories: Tucsonan immortalized on mural

Life stories: Tucsonan immortalized on mural

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Life stories: Tucsonan immortalized on mural

Gail Fafard, then Gail Hill, is on the left in the 18-foot mural at the Broadway Underpass downtown. She's walking with two friends, Norma Felix, center, and Irma Rendon.

Gail Fafard didn't remember anything in particular about the day her photo was snapped while she and a couple of girlfriends strolled downtown after school.

It was 1946 or '47 and the trio of junior high students were headed to a soda fountain for a Coke.

Fafard, nee Hill, couldn't have anticipated that decades later her image would appear 18 feet tall, immortalized as a tile mural at the Broadway Underpass.

"She told me that it was there if I wanted to see it. She said it was kind of cool, but there wasn't any bragging or anything like that," said childhood friend Barbara Soto.

Now the mural serves as a memorial to Fafard, who died April 24. She was 78.

Fafard's family moved to Tucson when she was 9. Her father, Cecil Hill, was a Walgreen Drug Store pharmacist and a troubleshooter for the chain. When he was transferred from a Mexico City store to Tucson, his wife, Tee, and their daughter moved to Arizona from Kansas City, Kan.

Gail was born in Kansas City. Her mother was a Louisiana native, raised on the family plantation. After they moved to Arizona, the 5-foot-tall Tee dabbled modeling and appeared in a few B movies.

"She was a hot-tempered French lady," Fafard's son, Randy Oqua, said of his grandmother.

"My grandfather was the funniest man you'd ever meet," Fafard's daughter, Robin Ostermann, said, "and Gail, she was a character too."

Soto met Fafard when they attended Saints Peter & Paul Catholic middle school.

"She was really sweet, somebody you could confide in," Soto said. "I'm an only child and so was she, so we really had a tight friendship."

That bond continued throughout their lives.

"We both lived on the east side of town and had to ride the public bus and transfer twice to get to Tucson High. I'd always save a seat for her and we'd talk about boyfriends and school and the latest movies," Soto said. "We would meet after class and we'd usually walk to the bus stop and we'd pass Le Cave's bakery and get a doughnut."

In "Snapped on the Street: A community archive of photos and memories from downtown Tucson 1937-1963," a companion book to the underpass murals, Fafard said: "You looked forward to going downtown because that's where all your friends were. You never walked down the street in Tucson at that time, that somebody didn't know you or you didn't know them."

As much as she liked hanging out with her girlfriends, Fafard quit school at 15 to wed her first husband. A year later her son was born.

"By the time she was 20, she had three children," Ostermann said. Fafard's youngest, Rikki, died in 2006.

Fafard was a stay-at-home mom until her children reached high school, then, in 1967, she enrolled in beauty college. Within five years she was divorced from her first husband, a civil engineer, married to her second, a bank manager, and owned her own salon, Robbie's Broadway East. She ran it until she retired a decade or so ago.

Her second marriage ended after 14 years, but the third time was a charm. She met the love of her life, businessman George Fafard, and the pair were married for 40 years. He died in March at age 81. Gail died a month later.

The series

This feature chronicles the lives of recently deceased Tucsonans. Some were well-known across the community. Others had an impact on a smaller sphere of friends, family and acquaintances. Many of these people led interesting - and sometimes extraordinary - lives with little or no fanfare. Now you'll hear their stories.

On StarNet

Did you know Gail Fafard? Add your remembrance to this article online at azstarnet.com/lifestories

To suggest someone for Life Stories, contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191.

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