Patti Alksne, owner of The Second Act and "The Rag-Queen of Girard".|
Patti Alksne, 80, left us on November 6, 2013, after a heroic two-year battle with a variety of health challenges; she died from complications related to her pulmonary hypertension. Patti was a mother, grandmother and businesswoman who made a real impact on each community she joined.
Born during the Depression to a large Norwegian family, Patti was raised in Eastern Washington where her family ran a general store. She married John Alksne in 1954, graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in English in 1955, and taught high school English while John completed medical school. They went on to have four children: Milton, Cynthia, Ward and Lorna. Although her marriage ended in divorce, she and John remained good friends and he was instrumental as Patti confronted the health challenges she faced over the last two years.
Patti's love of politics was a driving force in her life. In the 1960s, the Alksne family lived in Richmond, Virginia. Patti helped organize and open the first integrated swimming pool in Richmond, a radical and life-changing concept during that era. She taught the first integrated Head Start class in the Richmond area, with Ward and Lorna as two of her students. She was extremely proud of her time volunteering for Robert Kennedy during the 1968 presidential campaign, and her commitment to civil rights and public service that she successfully passed along to her children.
After the family moved to La Jolla, Patti became a charter member of the City Club of San Diego, regularly hosting City Club events in her home. Patti opened the Second Act in 1982, a resale shop that sells "gently experienced" upscale clothing to discriminating La Jolla shoppers. She sold so many T-shirts and jeans that she gleefully proclaimed herself, "The Rag Queen of Girard." Typically, Patti used her shop to help others; clothes that were not purchased were eventually donated to the Friends of the International Center at UCSD.
No description of Patti would be complete without mentioning her sparkling blue eyes and highlighting her passion for music, the arts and travel. Her great joy was to discover a young artist. She promoted and mentored many, helping them book events to play, letting them practice on her beloved Steinway, feeding them, even giving them a place to sleep as they made their way in the music world. When her children were young, Patti was on the Board and a docent at the San Diego Museum of Art. She loved leading tours of school children through the gallery, helping them to discover the beauty and symbolism in great works of art. For the last 30 years, she focused on travelling and exploring the world of modern art. Combining all her passions, she established her own Music Festival, placing it each year in a location she found compelling. From Bilbao to Prague to McCall, Idaho - festival attendees flocked to the fascinating world of Patti Alksne. In her travels she became a collector of a wide variety of things, and she had a knack for finding the unusual – vintage clothing, eye-cups, painted eggs, and Beidermeir furniture.
Patti was many things: a professional business owner, a music lover, an anonymous philanthropist, a political activist and a community leader - but most of all she was a devoted mother and grandmother. She was crushed by the death of her son, Ward, in 2012, and is survived by three loving children and their spouses, Milton and Pam, Cynthia and Steve, Lorna and Chris, and her "adopted" daughter, Maria. Patti's ten grandchildren were the light of her life - she took each one of them on a "Grandma trip" so they could begin to appreciate the wider-world. In summers, she treated them all to "Camp Grandma Patti." Patti is also survived by her brother, Holly Rosvold; and sisters, Lorraine Lau and Carol Malcolm.
A celebration of Patti's life will be held at the family home on December 7, 2013, at 3:00 pm. As Patti's favorite color was blue, attendees of the memorial are invited to wear blue in her honor.
In lieu of flowers, please consider sending donations to Hospice By The Sea or Friends of the International Center at UCSD.
Published in La Jolla Light on Nov. 27, 2013