If I think back at some of the most fun times I’ve had in the last several of years, it was being around John Farnam and Paul Heitzenrater. Always finding humor and something to laugh about, doing this Have You Met with them was more play than work.
John and Paul met 10 years ago (this March 19th) when they attended a grant-writing workshop. They say they both had wonderful lives that were only enhanced when they met. Paul remembers thinking what a “well dressed man” John was, and John remembers Paul in a “nice green sweater.” John gave Paul his card, and they’ve been connected ever since.
For this wonderfully loving couple, the game is always on as it’s hard to find a charitable organization they haven’t helped out with their participation, leadership, money – and enthusiasm!
So how did they both end up in Colorado from Virginia and Montana? Paul came to Colorado with his parents when his dad took a government job; and Paul then started an internship with the State of Colorado. As a child, Paul remembers how special his grandfather was. They would go for outings and picnics; and when they were done, they would plant their apple cores for future trees to grow. Paul says: “The message I learned from my family and from being in scouts was to treat people well and try to leave the world a little better place for others. Everyone can make a difference!”
John was looking for new opportunities and to venture out on his own when he moved from Montana, and he says: “I wanted to integrate into the community and help wherever I could. We all have an obligation to do what we can.”
John and Paul are moved by such issues as homelessness, child abuse and neglect and by any organization that can effectively make a change in the lives of those in need. John says: “These issues speak to us!” Paul keeps blankets in his car for the homeless as well as puts bags of food together for people he personally sees are in need.
Forever classy gentlemen, John's and Paul’s relationship is based on honesty, mutual respect, and a passion for one another and what they believe in. They balance each other well. They are so warm and lovely and a joy to be around and can offer a kind, wise and sympathetic ear – and when needed, a shoulder to cry on.
About their future plans and even taking on more in the community, John says with a smile: “Never say never…”
When you first met, what was the first thing you noticed about each other? Paul: I noticed John's smile and eyes. He wakes up with a smile and has one on until he goes to bed! And that spark he has in his eyes! He has this "anything is possible" look that just draws you to him and makes you want to be with him. Those are just two of the things I love about him the most.
John: Paul's gentle spirit and kindness were the first things I noticed and the things I love most about being his partner! As so many of your readers know, Paul is a very loving, sweet and brilliant man. He is thoughtful and careful with his time and talent as his work keeps him so busy. When he commits to something, it will be perfect as Paul will not accept anything less than excellent.
You are so adored in this town by many; what non-profits are you involved with at this time? Both: Kempe is our passion, and where we spend most of our time, as we are Co-presidents of the Alliance. When we decided to become Co-presidents of the Kempe Alliance with Sandee Walling, we spent a weekend looking at where we spend our time and energy. Since we both work full-time, we had to prioritize. Currently we are deeply involved with the Denver Center Alliance as John is co-chairing Theatre Threads with Denise Bellucci. We are also involved with Excelsior Youth Center, The Adoption Exchange, First American State Bank Fitness Festival, South Suburban Park Foundation, Colorado Neurological Society, ART Reach, National Jewish Health, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, ARC, Resource Area for Teachers, Central City Opera and the Fine Arts Foundation. Many of our endeavors are so directly linked to the important work of our dear friends and our wish to support them in their efforts.
What charitable events do you look forward to attending each year? Both: Of course, the Kempe Gala - this year “Kempe Takes Hong Kong” and “Salt on the Rim.” We are looking forward to Excelsior Youth Center's Gala as our friend, Jamie Angelich, is being honored as their Triumphant Woman. We love National Jewish Health “Beaux Arts Ball” - always a stellar event and one that holds a lot of meaning as Paul has been a therapist there for 26 years and is so proud of the work of NJH. We love “Theater Threads” and “Saturday Night Alive,” both for the DCPA. We love theater and have had season tickets to DCPA for years. John was one of the first male models with Theater Threads and that is such a fun event! Everyone always loves dress up and Theatre Threads is an adult version! It is a kick!
As a couple, what's your first priority? Both: Each other. Then our family (including our puppies) and friends. We are honored to be able to give back to the community - we love Denver and being able to work with so many incredible people in the community - each with their own talents and strengths. But we put each other first, otherwise we couldn't do what we do. It truly takes both of us to "divide and conquer" as we tend to say yes much more than no to opportunities that arise.
What main quality (or qualities) do you admire in each other? Paul: John's optimism - he has taught me ANYTHING is possible.
John: Paul's sense of humor. He is so quiet that people often don't get to experience how witty and wise he is. He makes me smile every single day!
What do you have most in common? Both: The attribute we most share is appreciating each other, our family and friends. We find peace at home with our babies (our puppies) when we have one of those nights at home, and we are all in the "pit" watching TV, and snuggling. Our home is very important to us as we love to share it with friends. Our family gives us support and our friends give us our energy and inspiration.
They say sometimes opposites attract; what is the most different thing about the two of you? Paul: John is the "front" man. He walks into the room and it lights up! He is very comfortable taking charge in a group, party or meeting. I prefer to step back and am not as comfortable being in the limelight. I love social situations, I just don't like being in the center!
John: Paul thinks things through from A to Z before moving. I tend to build the plane in flight. I do love the challenge of multiple ways to get to an end result and exploring each of them as I'm on the journey!
Where do both of you like to go for a special dinner - in Colorado? Both: When we aren't hosting friends for dinner in the gardens, supper club or staying in with the puppies having dinner in the "pit" and watching HGTV, we love spending an evening at Barolo Grill. Now for a fun lunch we LOVE going to Benny's with friends for margaritas and tons of laughter!
Paul: We love to cook, and we love to have friends over to share a meal, but it is the experience and not the making of a perfect dish that is important. Something I learned from my mother and grandmother was that fixing and preparing food or a meal for someone else is giving of yourself and showing them that you love them (you actually can taste the "love" in a dish!). So, that is what we try to do. We love going to friends homes for dinner whether they like to cook or not, because it is sitting down with them and sharing something they prepared. We also love wings on a Saturday afternoon at the biker bar after we have been working in the yard, or a four hour long, multi-course meal served family style with a dozen people! It is more the experience than anything else.
(Another side note from Paul: For my 50th birthday last year, John invited 25 of our family and friends (from all periods of our lives), and we cooked. It was at a cooking school, and we all got together and made pasta and grilled, and told stories, and made cupcakes, and laughed, and then ate and laughed some more! It was the PERFECT party and gathering, and I could not have planned a better surprise or party. It was perfect!)
What is your favorite vacation spot – and why? Both: We love to take a "big" trip every other year, but lately, the time has been too hard to carve out. A month in Spain one year and a couple years later a month in Italy; we like to discover places. We appreciate spending time together, away from the cell phone, where we find little restaurants, music venues, etc., and meeting new people - immersing in the local culture. In the spring we are meeting family in New Orleans. They are all foodies and like to get off the beaten path, so we'll certainly be experiencing some special moments and all that NOLA has to offer!
What do you plan on doing for Valentine's Day this year? Both: We will pamper ourselves with a Spa Day at the Four Seasons Denver! We love taking a breather from our hectic schedules and Spa Days are one of the best ways we've discovered to do so. Of all the spas we've have the good fortune of experiencing, the Four Seasons remains our favorite. PLUS, the Four Seasons has been so generous to offer the Kempe Center Alliance a donation of 15% of any spa treatment or package for the month of February. Thank you Dana Berry for your support of the Kempe Center Alliance.
We are also going to the Valentine's Day performance of Opera Colorado's The Marriage of Figaro. We both are avid fans of the performing and fine arts.
Tell us about some of your holiday traditions? What do you consistently do every year? Paul for both: I love Thanksgiving, and I love to have a house full of people. Our prayer is that there is always room at the table for everyone and everyone is welcome - sometimes we have quite a mix of people. We love that! One of the only rules I have at the house is that Christmas cannot go up until after Thanksgiving. John loves Christmas! So, usually the day after, we get the tree - 13', and begin lighting and decorating. We keep the lights up thru the Stock Show. John and I have had the tradition of exchanging ornaments for the tree. John gives me a silver Santa every year, and I give him silver sleigh bells. It takes us forever to decorate the tree because we usually pick up ornaments when we travel, and we reminisce when we unwrap them.
What does living your best life mean to you? Both: It means waking up every morning, seeing that it is a day full of opportunities and trying to be the best you can be. A sign we saw one time read "Crisis gives us the opportunity to be the best we can be." That is so true and always resonated. We get up every morning being the best we can be and see every moment as an opportunity! We also live by "what you want most, give that away" - if you want respect, respect: if you want love, love: if you want trust, trust.
Tell us about your work with the Kempe Foundation and your time so far as co-presidents of Kempe Alliance? Paul: For me, it has been the busiest, but most energizing months since last June. We got involved because people, we have so much respect for, introduced us to Kempe. John started cooking for the preschool, and I wanted to do that too. I have Fridays off and so it was just natural to cook for the kids on Fridays. That was so rewarding and seeing how the kids, served by Kempe were transformed and integrated into healthy families, and also by seeing them regain their childhood, was life changing for me. That led to more and more involvement. When Sandee asked us to be Co-Presidents, it was me who resisted the most - we kept telling her "no." I didn't want to take on something I couldn't give 110% to. Then, one weekend, John and I took a look at what was important to us, evaluating where we wanted to spend our time and resources. We kept coming back to Kempe and the kids. We talked to trusted friends, that were, or are, involved with Kempe and asked their option and if we could count on their support if we decided to go for it. The support and encouragement has been incredible! The same weekend we decided to be Co-Presidents, the Chairs to Salt on the Rim resigned, and we were in a hunt to find Gala Chairs. So, we hit the ground sprinting! We were advised to cancel SOTR, being two months out, but we thought it was important not to. We asked Lawrence French and Gregory Sargowicki to Co-Chair with us, and we put an amazing committee together and pulled it off! It was truly the work of the team - and the mantra was, "we're doing it for the kids!" Our feedback from people afterward was either, "We didn't attend, but heard it was fabulous and can't wait until next year," or "We were there, it was a fabulous party and we can't wait until next year." So, the four of us decided to do it again this year - only we have eight months as our runway, instead of two.
It is that enthusiasm, and the energy for people we work with who love the cause that keeps me energized to do more. We are so excited with the direction Kempe is going and excited about this anniversary year at Kempe! We, with the support, involvement and help of so many amazing people, can do fantastic things for the kids!
John: Paul has really captured the essence of our work with the Kempe Center. It is such an amazing organization with solid leadership. The mission is so very important, and the results the Kempe Center achieves in the lives of children and families impacted by child abuse and neglect are life changing. We are humbled to be a tiny part of that!
How do we get more people involved in charitable giving and volunteering? Both: When we took over as Co-presidents, we met with so many of our respected friends. We were told people want to be respected (their time and resources appreciated) and want meaningful things to do. We have tried to do that. We also want to make our time with our volunteers fun and have tried to do that whether it is meeting at Celebrity Lanes to bowl after our meeting, or at The Summit Restaurant to eat afterwards, etc. We also try to "thank" those who give their time and resources and show them they are appreciated. There are lots of places that need volunteers, and all are good causes, so when someone chooses to spend their time and money with Kempe, we are honored and want to show how much we appreciate that support.
What constitutes a perfect event in both your eyes? Both: A cause we believe in, that the organization respects the guests by keeping a reasonable budget so the greatest amount of funds go back to the cause, and FUN! We also appreciate when things happen that are "out of the box" - a surprise, a twist . . . . Something other than a cocktail hour, silent auction, predictable dinner, endless speeches, etc.
When you were a little boy, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? Paul: An Architect - but you know, and this sounds totally trite, you never know where the journey takes you and being where I am now, with the partner I have, friends and family and doing what I am doing. I couldn't have dreamt a life better than the one I have now. I would have never imagined one as wonderful. And every turn and bump in the road makes us who we are - and hopefully I am better for it.
John: I always believed I would grow up to work in the medical profession. My mom had a lifetime career in medicine, AND I certainly knew I didn't want to grow up to work on the ranch! I was born and raised on a ranch in Montana. It was such a special place to grow up (it became more so as an adult), and I love going back to visit. However, as a young man, it was clear being a rancher wasn't in my cards. Although, I do love a pair of great boots!
What do you consider your proudest achievement? Paul: Helping kids. A year or so ago, my parents gave me a birthday card and in it, they told me how proud they were of what we were doing. I know they always loved me, but to hear that, from my parents - that meant a lot. I'm sure there were times when I was growing up and made choices that weren't the best, that they had some doubts what I was going to get into! When John tells me he is proud of an event or something we do for the kids, that means a lot, too.
John: The moments in my life that make me the most proud are those when our volunteer time and connections intersect and benefit the important work of the groups we support. I am deeply committed to my work as it is very important, and I have high expectations on myself. It is always a wonderfully unexpected joy when we get wins for charities we love and support.
Which one word(s) describes you best? Paul: Loyal - and this is a phrase, but I try to "do what I say, and say what I do."
John: Passionate. I don't do anything in a "kind of" manner. It's all in or nothing at all!
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you? Paul: I grew up with advice! From Sunday school, to Scouts, to my parents and grandparents . . . and it always was the same, and the probably the same advice all kids got. Do the best you can, tell the truth, be nice to others (treat others the way you want to be treated). I know everyone hears these things until they probably fall on deaf ears, but it really is what we should strive to do. I learn that more and more as I get older.
John: I was nominated for a national leadership award by the Mayor of Fort Collins when I was the Executive Director of the AIDS Project. The interviews and competition occurred in New York City in front of judges from all industries and backgrounds; an intimidating line up of men and women. The most poignant piece of advice I was gifted that stuck with me and has guided me since, was "Be yourself, show them John and you'll succeed." That has led me through my life in circumstance good and challenging and has served me well.
What do you love most about living in Colorado? Both: The sunshine! The mountains and outdoors, the healthy lifestyle, how livable Denver is!
What’s your favorite kind of music to listen to when you come home from a busy, hectic day? Both: We don't immediately turn music on - although we love all types of stuff. But, if we have a night at home and “Dancing with the Stars” is on, we love that! Or the Food Channel or HGTV! We don't watch a lot of TV, but that is what we turn to.
How would you describe the last 10 years of your lives? Paul: Amazing! Amazing because John and I celebrate 10 years together next month. When I met John, I was very happy being single and doing what I was doing. I had no idea and no concept of how fantastic a life could be until I met him. We made a home together and started our family (the pups)! As I said before, it is so much more than anything I could ever have imagined!!
John: I would describe the past decade as fully unimaginable. I try to not focus on the destination, but enjoy the journey. The journey has been incredible, unexpected, touching, challenging and memorable. I am so blessed to have countless gifts over the past decade there truly isn't one period that I can isolate as the best as each minute of each day holds such opportunity. It is our to make the most of each one!
What is something you would still like to learn to do – like play an instrument, learn a certain language – skydive? Paul: I always look for things to do or try. I'm not an athlete, but we have dear friends who are, and I will try anything! I think I would like to skydive - I'd be scared to death, but I think I would try that - I think?!
John: My senior year in college I needed some Arts & Humanities credits. I decided to take a three credit piano class. I worked so very hard to make my hands do different things at the same time. I practiced and rehearsed and was coached and wanted to make beautiful music so badly! I had a breakthrough one night in the rehearsal room, actually it was around 2:00 a.m. when I could finally do different things with my hands at the same time. The moment I will cherish forever was the day I had my first recital, as a senior in college. I will never forget sitting at that 12' Steinway Concert Grand on the stage of the University of Wyoming and making music for my friends and family. It is a continual desire to pick up music again and create moments of touching, powerful, tender music!
Describe your dream get-away, and when do you plan on taking it - or have you already been there? Both: We have had our sights set on a biking trip through the tulip fields of Holland in the spring. We talk about the trip culminating in the Netherlands during Queen's Day. That trip has been re-prioritized a couple times, all for good reason, but it remains a dream get-away for us.
What do you hope is in store for the future? Paul: More of the same, but that same is the unknown. We would have never been able to chart the path we are on - there have been so many opportunities that have come our way. Life is a journey and not knowing is the excitement to it!
John: My hope for the future is one where those in need, have.
How do you want to be remembered? Both: With a smile. . .