Barbara Faietta was born in Portland in 1932.

Barbara Faietta, shown here in her senior class photo, graduated Portland High School in 1950, a year after the launch of what is now the Press Herald Toy Fund. Her love of Christmas and children made her a long-time supporter and volunteer with the charity until her death in March. Photo courtesy of Faietta family.

She was one of six children of Irish immigrants and grew up at the foot of Munjoy Hill, a tightly packed community of poor and working-class families that decades later would become the city’s trendiest neighborhood.

Her family didn’t have a lot. But the holidays were always a special time and instilled a love of Christmas she would share with the people around her for the rest of her life.

Faietta, then Barbara Clowes, attended Cathedral Grammar School and Portland High School. She graduated in 1950, one year after Portland’s daily newspaper helped launch a new charity to make sure needy children throughout the city had gifts to unwrap at Christmas.

In 1953, she married Dominic Faietta, a Portland firefighter and the son of Italian immigrants who also grew up on “the hill.” They would move to Windham and raise four children.

She came to love Italian cooking and prepared a holiday feast each year, including meatballs and lasagna. “Everybody was welcome at her house on Christmas Eve,” her daughter Jeanine Eastman said. “She created wonderful memories.”

Barbara was a nurse by profession and a caregiver by nature. She worked for many years at various nursing homes in Portland. On the side, she volunteered. She was a foster grandmother and knitted Christmas stockings that she donated to the Mercy Hospital maternity ward for all the December babies to go home in.

She also became a regular volunteer at the newspaper’s toy fund.

The Portland charity founded in 1949 grew over time into an annual campaign to provide holiday gifts to children through southern and coastal Maine.

It was long known as the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, named after the pen name of the newspaper columnist who co-founded it and wrote daily appeals for donations each holiday season. The fund is now called the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts and provides gifts to thousands of children in six Maine counties.

“My mother loved Christmas, and she always loved children and wanted them all to have a nice Christmas,” her daughter said. One of her favorite parts of the work she did with the toy fund came in the days and weeks before Christmas, when grateful parents came to pick up gifts they would give to their children.

“My mother would be really happy to present the parents with packages. It brought her a lot of joy,” Eastman said.

Faietta eventually moved back to Portland, where she died in March at the age of 85.

And now, while she won’t be there to hand out the toys, donations have been arriving in her memory to help buy more toys and ensure that the 69-year-old fund keeps going.

Just as Faietta would have wanted, he daughter said. “She loved Christmas and kids, and she loved the toy fund.”

THE PRESS HERALD TOY FUND in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts uses donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. Now in its 69th year, the fund is accepting applications for toys from needy families in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Lincoln and Knox counties.

APPLICATIONS can be downloaded at or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 or 791-6600 to have one mailed to you.

DONATIONS to help buy the toys can be made at or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.


SEE MORE STORIES about the fund at


From Grampy Stan $300

Richard McGoldrick $1,000

In memory of Bill Murphy $30

In memory of Lindy Coughlin by his parents $50

In memory of Ted, from Evelyn, Michelle, Gary and Little Ollie $50

Lorna Dorsey $20

PL Associates $1,000

Barbara Boes $200

In loving memory of Emmons and Joan Johnson from your family $200

In loving memory of Jane E. Quirk from Quirkie $100

Merry Christmas from Jim & Kathy Ryan $200

In memory of my mom, Ruth Hamm, who donated every year. Miss her so much. Love, Mary Turner $100

In thanks to God for my life’s many blessings $100

In memory of Geraldine and Warren $100

Celebrate Dylan – Sam – AJ $100

Nancy & Mark $100

In memory of Ruth Thompson, who loved Christmas $20

Wayne & Ellen $100

In loving memory of our parents: William & Martha Horr and Miles & Roberta Thompson $25

In memory of Timmy Haley $200

From Kirsten, Lauren, Ella, Annie and Liam $100

Carson & Chris Lutes $100

Jean & Fran $100

In memory of Marnie $93

In memory of my husband, Joe Chaisson, who always gave to the Fund, from Nola Chaisson $40

In memory of Ann Rosen, from Elaine Rosen, Ben & Judy Bertram $50

In memory of Roscoe, Evelyn, Barbara and Patricia Seabury from Marjorie Estabrook $100

Anonymous $25

Merry Christmas! Matt, Mary and Madeline Thompson $100

SLR $10

In loving memory of my Dad, Ronnie the Barber, from Sandee and Joe $30

Merry Christmas from a Grammie $25

In loving memory of parents Lucien, Laura, Robert and Marjorie $25

Barry Gleason and Maryellen Kennedy $100

In memory of Rita Baltas, who truly enjoyed Christmas and exhibited the Christmas spirit year-round. God bless! Ted and family and Lucy, too! $100

In memory of John Wilson and Leo Morin, from John & Lynda Wilson $50

In memory of Harry Burnham, a good friend and a kid at heart! Merry Christmas and God Bless! Ted Baltas Jr. $50

In memory of Abernathy, Malachi and Speck, from Anne & Steve $30

Anonymous $50

Total for year $43,719

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