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Naming Las Vegas: Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Park

Last month, the park adjacent to Wet ‘n’ Wild was named the Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Park, a nod to the couple who were named the World’s Longest Married in 2012.

The park at 7025 S. Fort Apache Road covers 8.1 acres and features a playground, picnic facilities, a walking and jogging path and an open grass area for play. An aquatics facility is also planned.

The name of the park was selected by the student council of Faiss Middle School, 9525 W. Maule Ave.

In 2012, Worldwide Marriage Encounter named the Faisses the World’s Longest Married Couple for being together for 79 years. President Barack Obama made time to congratulate them while visiting Nevada. That October, Theresa died at 97. Her husband’s death (he preferred the name Will) followed in November 2013. He was 102.

At the 2013 memorial, son Bob Faiss read a three-page eulogy, written the night his father died.

“There was no brag about Will,” he wrote. “He never voluntarily talked about himself. He was humble and unassuming. He also was one of the toughest men I ever knew. He never walked away from a fight after doing his best to avoid it.”

The Faisses moved in 1944 from St. Louis to North Las Vegas, where Will worked for a shoe company. They opened the Truck Haven, a motel and cafe, in the early 1950s. They had three sons — Bob, who became a lawyer, and Ron and Don, who are retired hotel executives.

Bob recalled the move to Nevada. He was 10 at the time.

“We arrived in the heat of summer and spent that first day in front of the water cooler, it was so hot,” he said. “The desert was unlike anything we’d experienced.”

The family was not typical of the time, he said. They lived in quarters at the motel. Because everyone picked up odd jobs, the family did not have dinner together. Each morning, Theresa cleaned rooms at the motel, then headed to the kitchen to cook for her lunch patrons. She ran the cafe alone. Will handled the service station, pumping gas and working on cars.

“It was a hardscrabble life, but our parents were always very caring, and they protected us and helped us,” Bob said. “But it was not a normal home in any respects. We’d come home, fix ourselves something to eat, then went off and did our chores.”

Will was a North Las Vegas volunteer firefighter and joined service organizations such as the Optimist Club and Lions Club. He would later work at the Nevada National Security Site (now called the Nevada Test Site).

He served two terms in the Nevada State Senate (1976-84) and told reporters that one of his proudest moments was voting for the Equal Rights Amendment in 1977.

His name is on two other important laws. He was one of the authors of the 1979 law that allows pharmacists to substitute lower-cost generic drugs for name-brand drugs. He also wrote a law that gave senior citizens free admission to state parks and their campgrounds.

Bob’s wife, Linda, married into the family about 23 years ago and called Will and Theresa a sweet, nurturing couple.

“He was a jolly fellow; she took care of everybody,” she said. “He was very outgoing, sharp, doing crossword puzzles until his last breath, practically.”

Theresa was shy, and when she was selected as Clark County’s Pioneer Mother of the Year in 1996, she was too frozen to utter anything more than “thank you” when she accepted the award. Her boys were her life.

A great cook, she and her sister, Hazel, ran a cafe before Will’s job brought them to the Las Vegas Valley.

“One year, we came back from visiting family at Cape Cod, and I told her the best pie I ever had was apple-cranberry pie,” Linda said. “And for my next birthday, that’s what she made me, an apple-cranberry pie.”

Will was always into physical fitness, working out with weights daily and taking vitamins. He was so fit, he was putting up drywall when he was in his 80s and still going to the gym when he was 100. When he broke a hip at 101, doctors looked at his convalescing X-rays and exclaimed that he was “healing like a teenager,” Linda said.

Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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