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Friends Make Donations in Memory of Longtime Co-Worker and Volunteer JoAnn Faust

Salk Volunteers

Salk volunteers Jane Spahn (from left), JoAnn Faust, Ottilie Baer, Ellen Zimmerman and Jeannie Robert during the Salk's unveiling of the March of Dimes plaque in 2005.

Former Salk receptionist JoAnn Faust may have retired from the Institute 17 years ago, but her endless supply of laughter and her fun-loving personality are still fondly remembered by close friends and colleagues.

She worked at the Institute from 1975-1993, after which she remained closely involved as a volunteer — first with the Women's Association of the Salk Institute (WASI) and later as a member of the Salk Institute Associates (SIA).

If you couldn't catch her at the front desk, you would likely find JoAnn passing the time during her lunch break knitting in the WASI meeting room. This is where fellow knitter and Salk Administrative Assistant Cindy Doane says that, despite their 36-year age difference, she developed a deep friendship with JoAnn that lasted 22 years.

JoAnn Faust

JoAnn Faust

"She was my best friend in San Diego. We were always talking about knitting and exchanging patterns," says Doane, who is among a group of friends who made contributions to the Salk in JoAnn's memory. "We'd often go to the knitting shop together and, of course, do lunch in the process. She had four great-grandchildren she would knit for, but she would also knit baby caps and booties for preemies and donate them to the hospital."

Others like Project Coordinator Betsy Pené remember JoAnn's penchant for laughter and how she could find amusement in some of the simplest things. She was particularly fond of JoAnn's adolescent side.

"We used to have secret Santa gift exchanges in our department and one year I drew her name," Pené says. "I went to a street fair and picked up some toys, and she loved them. She was just like a big kid."

For her 75th birthday, JoAnn announced that she wanted to spend the night at the San Diego Wild Animal Park for its Roar & Snore sleepover program. It was the first time she ever slept in a tent, and she fulfilled her birthday wish with her family in tow.

"She said the snore came from her cousin who shared her tent and snored all night," Doane says with a laugh.

JoAnn may have been a child at heart, but her friends say she was a serious collaborator when it came to her work at the Salk. Originally hired as a receptionist after moving to California from the East Coast with her three children, she regularly volunteered to take on extra duties whenever she was needed.

"She was really so much more than a receptionist," Pené says. "JoAnn served as the Institute's events coordinator because we didn't have one at the time. She was always running around picking up food and anything else that was needed for an event. JoAnn also managed all volunteer coordination for mailings and tours. She was very dedicated to the Institute."

After retiring, JoAnn spent more time on the golf course, where Doane says she would join her for a round almost every Friday morning. She continued volunteering at the Institute until the fall of 2009 when JoAnn was diagnosed with a brain tumor after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The news shocked her close friends since she had never had any major health problems until that point, Doane says. By December of last year, JoAnn went into hospice, choosing to no longer see her friends. Doane kept in touch with her best friend by sending letters until just before JoAnn passed away on Jan. 16. She was 84 years old.

"My guess is that she didn't want people blubbering over her," says Doane of JoAnn's decision not to take visitors. "I miss talking with her about anything and everything. She was very special."

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