Nick Faitos has spent the majority of his life in Santa Cruz. Born in a street car parked behind his dad’s famous hamburger stand, Nick’s, he had a very strict upbringing, with his Greek immigrant father stressing hard work above all else.
Dr. Russell Lee made my mother well again…(and) kept my mother alive.
“My dad believed that young people should not enjoy the pleasures of life—fun
was for retirement,” Nick says. “In spite of this mantra, or perhaps because
of it, I had some free-spirited years as a teenager. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it
It was during this time that Nick met his future wife, Margaret, and their spark has endured for 66 years. The couple lived in Hawaii for two years while he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, which Nick calls “a wonderful extended vacation.” Other than that, Nick and Margaret have enjoyed nine decades on the Northern California shore. They owned and operated a souvenir and gift shop, the Beach Centre, for 42 years, delighting travelers from all over the world who flocked to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
“Happy and returning customers provide my best memories of the store, and I have kept in touch with some of them 20 years after my retirement,” says Nick, now 91. “That’s pretty special.” At first, Nick had been somewhat apprehensive about going into business, uncertain the shop would be successful. But with Margaret’s inspiration and support, their venture thrived. Reliable longtime employee David Jones also contributed to the Beach Centre’s success.
“David and I continue to be the best of friends after nearly 60 years,” Nick says. “We relish in our memories of the people, events and zaniness that came with the shop.”
Ties to PAMF
Just as he cherishes the many long, fruitful relationships in his personal life, Nick is also grateful for his deep connection to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. He began receiving care at the Santa Cruz Medical Clinic (now PAMF Santa Cruz) in 1953 and grew close with the clinic founders, especially Charles Jernstrom, M.D., who helped keep a young Nick on the right path. Nick and Margaret’s son, Nick Jr., grew up under the watchful care of Marvin Naman, M.D., Santa Cruz’s first pediatrician. But Nick’s fondness for the organization originates from the care his mother received many years prior from PAMF cofounder Russell Lee, M.D.
“Dr. Lee made my mother well again after she came to him with a respiratory illness that several doctors had been unsuccessful at treating,” Nick recalls. “I have great respect for the man who kept my mother alive. She spoke of Dr. Lee fondly throughout her 87 years.”
Over the many decades that Nick has received care at PAMF Santa Cruz, he has witnessed dramatic advancements in healthcare, including the first X-ray machines in the 1950s. To this day, he is amazed by the innovative outpatient surgeries he underwent when PAMF established the first outpatient surgery facility west of the Mississippi. Surgeon Tony Marzoni, M.D., fixed a hernia in Nick’s groin, and he was up and out of the clinic just a few hours later.
“I was the first patient on the West Coast to have this surgery, and I still can’t believe I walked out after three short hours in recovery,” Nick recalls. “I didn’t walk erect, but I walked!”
He also greatly appreciates the multispecialty aspect of PAMF, having traveled to Palo Alto a few times for care and receiving treatment from orthopedist Joseph Tanner, M.D. Margaret has seen several PAMF specialists as well, including urologist Mark Rosen, M.D., and rheumatologist Alfred Petrocelli, M.D.
“Drs. Rosen and Petrocelli have done wonderful things for Margaret,” Nick says. “There are just so many fine doctors who go out of their way to look at anything suspicious in our health. They never let up or simply send us away with a prescription.”
Gratitude Inspires Generosity
Thankful for a lifetime of compassionate care, Nick and Margaret formalized their gratitude by joining the PAMF Legacy Society and including a gift to PAMF Santa Cruz in their estate plan. In recognition of their transformative legacy gift, PAMF Santa Cruz named the Nick & Margaret Faitos Center for Special Procedures in their honor. Nick toured the site while it was under construction, and when he saw their names displayed on the building, he exclaimed, “this is the third proudest day of my life after marrying Margaret and the birth of my son.”
The idea of having a place named after him struck Nick during a visit to a Palm Springs hospital, where he saw a sign for the Frank Sinatra Wing and another that pointed to the Dinah Shore Wing. “I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a Nick Faitos Wing?” he says. “It was only a fantasy to have a wing named after me, but thanks to Shannon Brady, director of philanthropy at PAMF Santa Cruz, I got an entire building.” Nick feels proud of the many advanced procedures the facility will host in the years to come.
Meanwhile, this Santa Cruz original delights in the pleasures of retirement. He likes that his time is his own, free from the demands of business meetings or a busy summer season at the Beach Centre, and revels in never needing to look at his watch: “I don’t care what time it is.” After years of hard work and giving of himself to others, Nick’s life today is exactly what his father would have wanted for his son.