An Eye for Nani (Beauty), My Appreciation for the Incomparable Patti Coons

by Professor Joe Goldblatt

Rarely within our short lives upon this earth along will come a person whose view of the world makes everything around them more beautiful or in the Hawaiian language, more nani. The nani that I am describing is not limited to the tangible elements of design. Rather it extends to the relationships, friendships and eternal bonds this person may inspire during their life time. My friend Patti Coons was one of those rare individuals who designed a life filled with loyal and devoted friends and family as well as many exquisitely beautiful events.

Patti had the unique ability to look into an empty hotel ballroom and see what ordinary mortals could not imagine. He talent for special events design was similar to other polymaths in that she saw the elements of beauty in the combined elements of colour, texture, smell, sound and taste. This multisensory approach to the elements of design made Patti a true renaissance artist during the seminal early days of the special events industry. She was the designer of note that many others tried to emulate and often failed, however, they always learned from her many innovations.

I first met Patti in the 1980’s when our firm was producing events throughout the United States. One day Patti rang my office and asked if I had an actor who could play the character “Radar” from the popular television series MASH for a corporate event that she was designing. This is yet another example of Patti’s dedication to every single piece of the event puzzle being of the highest quality to insure the goodness of fit with the whole experience for the guest. Our firm had recently produced a successful MASH event and having seen the photos of this project in an industry magazine Patti decided to contact me.

We indeed had an actor who would portray this character and he was flown to somewhere in America to become a key member of Patti’s cast of event characters. Patti was so gracious, that when I mentioned the exorbitant price for providing Radar she simply said “Fine.” She was prepared to invest in quality and a unique rare element to insure the goodness of the whole event. And she did time after time.

In addition to her world class designs for major events, Patti also helped design the future of the entire special events industry. She served with distinction as International President of the International Special Events Society (ISES) now known as the International Live Events Association (ILEA). Whether designing a lavish event or an effective and memorable board meeting, Patti knew how to orchestrate all of the elements to create an enduring and successful outcome.

I had the privilege of interviewing Patti for the seventh edition of my text book “Special Events, Creating and Sustaining a New World for Celebration” in 2015. This was the last time we met in person and I was deeply impressed and personally affected by her answer to my final question. I asked her if special events could actually help change the world?

Patti paused for a few seconds, closed her eyes and then thoughtfully replied,

“I think that whatever the size of the special events, one of the things that must happen is to show respect for others. If you respect them and what they are doing and help others show respect, well that is the main quest of what we do.”

In my observation, both through her design as well as her relationships, she lived these words throughout her lifetime.

When I learned of her death, through my shock and tears, I heard her deep laugh, that seemed to remind so many, including me, that life is to be enjoyed, savoured and experienced with good humour. Her great talent never crossed the very fine line of ego satiation. She always had that rare ability to just do the work and not worry about who received the credit. I believe she did this because she truly loved what she did, loved her family and friends and loved the genuinely beautiful life she artfully designed for herself and others.

The final chapter of Patti’s life was fully lived in paradise in the beautiful state of Hawaii. The native language of Hawaii includes the familiar word aloha that many believe is a greeting of hello and goodbye. Actually, aloha is similar to the Hebrew greeting of shalom because it has multiple meanings of love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy . Patti demonstrated through the art of living an enduring appreciation for beauty and now, her life also forever reflects aloha mau which means eternal love.

As I hear her unique laugh in my minds eye, I also remember and see the smile of this great woman who has left us with such beautiful memories of kindness, caring, compassion and a constant reminder to always see beauty everywhere we look.

Shalom Patti and aloha mau.

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