For example, Jim Ware, the local news editor for the Star-News newspaper in Wilmington, said he met Gary McNair, vice president and general manager of Wilmington's WECT, through the reunion. The pair attended Marshall University at the same time and had mutual friends but didn't know one other then.
A Beckley native who grew up in Huntington, Ware said a large number of former West Virginia residents live in and around Wilmington, whether they came for jobs, with the military or to follow children who relocated.
"We run into people all the time here," he said.
The original four
Facello himself is a Welch native and 1953 graduate of Welch High School. He went into the Marines after high school and ended up in the Wilmington area after being stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River. He became an ROTC instructor in the New Hanover County school system before teaching in that same system, a job he had for 27 years.
Facello's connection to the school system proved to be the catalyst for the reunion's beginnings. This was because in the mid-1980s, fellow West Virginia native Tom McNeel, who was the state superintendent of schools in West Virginia, became the county superintendent in New Hanover County, N.C.
The whole idea for the reunion started at a New Hanover High School basketball game in Wilmington. Facello and McNeel were sitting together talking when a then-Wilmington city police officer, Missy Perkins, another Mountain State native, came up and hugged McNeel around his neck and said that the former West Virginians ought to start getting together.
Perkins, Facello said, essentially got the entire event rolling.
After mulling over the idea, Facello and McNeel recruited two other community leaders and former West Virginians to help - the Rev. Mike Queen (a Wayne native) of First Baptist Church in Wilmington and former Mayor Ben Halterman (a Sweet Springs native).
That original four-member group started compiling a list of people they knew from West Virginia. McNeel had a list made of native West Virginians who worked for New Hanover County Schools, Queen knew about 30 people and Facello knew an additional four or five.
For the first 12 years, the reunion was held at First Baptist Church in Wilmington until renovations to the church and a rental fee forced the reunion to another home.
Over a quarter-century later, the reunion is still strong, though new faces help with the gathering. Facello is the only one left of the original four who still plans the event.
McNeel took a superintendent job in western North Carolina, Queen retired from his position at First Baptist Church and Halterman died in April.
Facello, however, is imbued with the reunion spirit. He also organizes both his Welch High School class reunion, held every other year at Pipestem Resort State Park, and his family reunion, held annually in Princeton.
But Facello's drive to keep the West Virginia reunion going may come down to the fact that he just enjoys his heritage.
"West Virginians are great people," he said.
Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Mur...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.