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Park Hill Character: No Matter How Farrar You Look …

… There Is Pam and Jack

By Barb Moe

The young couple

Jack and Pam Farrar are longtime residents of the Park Hill neighborhood, as well as major contributors to its lively spirit. Wrapping your arms around this couple would be a challenge, not because of their girth, but because of their many interests and talents.

Take Alley Art. You may have seen examples of Jack’s “spontaneous weirdness” (as he calls it). The weirdness is on display behind the Axum Restaurant at East Colfax Avenue and Hudson Street. It’s also in the parking lot south of the Park Hill Community Bookstore, at East 23rd Avenue and Dexter Street.

Jack has also planted some “guerilla gardens” (perennials that pop up here and there) in the neighborhood.

His interest in decorating the region took hold more than 15 years ago when began attaching “three-dimensional graffiti” on decrepit fences that needed facelifts.

Where does he find these unusual raw materials? “We go dumpster diving, and sometimes people donate stuff,” Jack says.

In addition to indulging his hobbies, Jack made it possible for several years for others to display similar talents, beginning about 10 years ago when he started the Park Hill Alley Art Contest.

The real facts

Volunteering at last year’s Park Hill Garden Walk.

Anyone reading his writings in the Greater Park Hill News might wonder if Jack’s authorial abilities exceed his artistic talents. He is fluent with definitions others may not know, such as the proper meaning of the term “factoid” (not a trivial fact, but a false statement believed by many to be a fact).

For his gift with words, Jack gives credit to his dad, a newspaperman (25 years with The Denver Post, more than 10 of them as sports editor). Along with liberal values, the senior Farrar passed along to Jack and to his older brother the importance of communicating clearly in writing. Jack’s mother got into the business as office manager for The Arvada Citizen, which his father edited after leaving the Post.

Pam, who has had diabetes since age seven, grew up in Casper, Wyoming. Along with her two sisters, and a brother, she excelled in school. Both of her parents were teachers and she carried on that tradition, teaching more than 30 years in Adams County.

The two met in college at the University of Denver, in the Scholars program.

Jack and Pam (formerly Martens) married, and before long they were the parents of two children, Julie and Aaron.

Julie was born with multiple physical handicaps, which has grown into the family’s longtime involvement in disability rights. She is now living in Albany, New York, in the first year of a two-year contract to help people with disabilities in nursing homes transition to independent living. Julie has three daughters, ages 24, 19, and 14.

Son Aaron is a gastroenterology technician at the Medical Center of Aurora. He and his wife, Amy, have two sons, ages 20 and 15.

The Farrars lived at 30th and Race Street in the early seventies, prior to serious gentrification in that area. “It was a fairly rough neighborhood,” says Jack. “Moving to Park Hill was like moving to the suburbs.” Jack and Pam have now lived in Park Hill for 42 years.

From the classroom to the pet store

When Julie and Aaron started school, Pam also went to school as a teacher in Adams County, where she taught first and second graders for 36 years. “She loved and respected each and every one,” says Jack. For the past seven years, Pam has kept in shape by attending a Ballet Barre class for seniors three times a week, taught by Karlyn Griswold, owner of the Dance Academy on the corner of 23rd and Dexter. For the past 10 years, Pam has also been part of a group that sorts used books at the Park Hill Community Bookstore.

Jack has had a variety of jobs, including teaching at Evergreen Junior High School, counseling young people at Lookout Mountain School for Boys, waiting tables, and even selling tropical fish.

He wrote freelance articles for various publications, was editor of a sports weekly, Sportscope, for two years, then turned to public relations for a variety of clients and employers, including banks, soccer teams, and political candidates. Eventually, he joined the REMAX International pubic relations department, and worked for the real estate franchisor from 1990 to 2008.

Theater of the human family

Community activities of various kinds have benefitted from the volunteering spirit of the Farrars. In past years, they prepared and distributed meals for the homeless. In the seventies, they were part of a street theater group, Theater of the Human Family, which espoused radical left ideas.

Starting out the New Year in fine style has been a tradition. The Farrar Annual New Year’s Day Picnic at the west end of Ferril Lake in City Park continued for more than 30 years. Pam made black-eyed peas for good luck. Attendees included family, friends and often other park visitors. Guests made resolutions and predictions, which the Farrars saved in a directory.

One of the couple’s more interesting ventures was joining with another couple in the development of a series of trivia game cards about Denver, Memphis, Seattle and New York, compatible with Trivial Pursuit.

Humming away at the bookstore

After the Farrars moved to Park Hill in 1975, they soon became volunteers at the bookstore. Aaron was six weeks old at the time, and the Farrar children grew up “in the stacks” with other young kids and their moms.

Park Hill resident Barbara Charnes was the bookstore’s first manager. A succession of paid managers followed for years until, in early 2015, board members faced a crisis: Find enough willing volunteers to operate the store, or go under. Since then, Jack and Pam have managed the store with the strong backing of a management team. Park Hill’s bookstore is the only volunteer operated, nonprofit bookstore in Denver.

Although anyone can come in, look around, and buy or order a book, a yearly membership at a minimum cost works well. Members can bring in books and trade them for other books or get credits for the future. Jack estimates there are now about 500 members. Sales through Amazon account for about a third of the bookstore’s business.

Currently, 50 volunteers keep the bookstore humming. Recent improvements include new basement shelving, new signage, air conditioning, and fresh paint throughout.

One more thing. Let’s not forget that Jack served for several years as a board member of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. For the Greater Park Hill News, he’s currently a newspaper bundler, a block worker, and a frequent writer/contributor.

Is there anything this couple hasn’t done? Stay tuned.

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