Patty Ghiossi looks forward to more garden time. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

Patty Ghiossi, the Key Peninsula Civic Center Association’s marketing and facilities coordinator for the last three years, informed the board of directors that she plans to retire Aug. 1.

 KPCCA President Tim Kezele and past president Phil Bauer both sang Ghiossi praises. She updated the financial system, redesigned the website and improved Facebook engagement. 

“Patty has been a godsend for the center,” Bauer said. “She is the most incredible person we have ever had in the office. She puts in beaucoup hours, organizes our whole Livable Community Fair, and even cooks the food.”

“The board is so lucky to have her,” Kezele said. “She totally turned the place around with her organizational skills, dependability and friendliness. Financially she is incredible. She has our finances in a place they have never been.”

Ghiossi recently cut her work schedule back to three days a week which got her thinking about retiring altogether, she said. “And I have a lot of projects. I am a crafter of many things and a master of none. I’d like to learn to weave.” 

Born and raised in Northern California, Ghiossi moved to the Pacific Northwest in her 20s. A camping trip in the Olympics brought her here. “It felt like an area where I’d be happy for a long time,” she said. “We had redwoods. You had cedars. And both places had foxglove, salal and huckleberries.”

In 1982, she bought a lot in Burley with a plan to build a house. Her first job, which she had for three years, was a high-paying, blue-collar position as a steelworker at Reynolds Aluminum in Kent. She started on building her home. When she began landscaping, she made a serendipitous connection with Claudia Loy, who had just opened Sunnycrest Nursery with her husband, Dale.

Once Ghiossi saved enough money to complete building her house and make improvements, she said, “I quit, took a $12,000-a-year pay cut, and went to work with Harbor Mobile Crew, a nonprofit in Gig Harbor.” No longer in existence, the nonprofit was a test site for a program through the University of Oregon, providing services for people with disabilities. “Disability work is in my background, not my education,” Ghiossi said. “My grandmother did a lot of groundbreaking work in the field; she fostered a child I grew up with, who seemed like a sister, but had significant disabilities.”

As part of her job, she presented many workshops and got to know people in the field throughout the country. Lured to New Orleans to work for a year, Ghiossi wouldn’t return to Burley for another 25. In that time, she married, had a daughter and got divorced. It was her daughter who kept her in New Orleans. “She was in a wonderful school and volunteer program and I didn’t want to take her away from that,” Ghiossi said. 

Her experience in the field of disability services during that quarter of a century was wide-ranging. She managed projects for the state of Louisiana and Louisiana State University and worked as a consultant and as program director for several nonprofit organizations serving people with disabilities. Ultimately, funding dwindled. “Funding cuts were so drastic, it felt like people were at risk,” she said. “I felt that I just needed to leave the field.”  With her daughter grown and enrolled at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Ghiossi returned to the KP four years ago. 

She considered her next steps. “I didn’t need a lot of money and I wanted to do something that would use my skills and would make a contribution to my community,” she said. She ran into Loy at Sunnycrest Nursery. The civic center was looking for a new manager and Loy suggested she consider applying.

“My father was the volunteer assistant fire chief in our community and he taught me about community involvement,” Ghiossi said. “The board reminded me of the community I had known as a child.” 

She plans to make sure the transition is smooth. “The civic center board is the most active board I’ve ever worked with,” Ghiossi said. “They are an exceptional group of people who really care about this community; they are why I have been here as long as I have.”

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