Islander Spotlight: Patty Korn
Patty Korn is not the first female Commodore in the long history of the Fort Myers Beach Yacht Club, but her position still engenders discussion over her new title. “Some members suggest Commodoris, or Madam Commodore,” she says with a wry smile, “but I prefer Commodorable!”
Patty, who serves through February 2017, believes she is the 3rd female Commodore for the yacht club first founded in 1953 and one of the oldest in Florida. “Our original home was on Dog Key, (edited 3-31-16) under a lease for $25-a-year. When that expired, there was discussion about acquiring our own permanent home, but on Fort Myers Beach that is too expensive for most members. Our current home-away-from-home is at the American Legion Post #274 at 899 Buttonwood Drive.”
Patty says that neighbors invited she and daughter Kaci to the annual Commodore’s Ball several years ago and “that was it for me – I was hooked!” When it came time for their installation, Kaci was back at school so her ceremony occurred via FaceTime. “That was certainly a club first,” exclaims Patty. “Older members kept asking, ‘what is going on here?’” Then roughly 4 years ago, Patty tried on the Commodore’s hat, liked its feel and said, “I am going to do this one day! I learned a long time ago if you think you can do something, you can. If you think it, you can make it happen, and then you discover you can bring other people along with you.”
This attitude is borne from a lifetime of groundbreaking achievements. While Commodore today, Patty is a former life-saving school nurse, the 1st female paramedic from Pike County in Ohio, an award-winning horse trainer and breeder who is a friend to the famed Budweiser Clydesdales, and a surgical operating room supervisor who married a military helicopter pilot hero and raised her only child to be a combination medical doctor and opera singer!
“When I was a school nurse, I was at the scene of a horrific automobile accident, where a young boy flew from the car and severed an arm. I attended him and packed the arm until the arrival of LifeFlight. His surgeon telephoned me later to say that not only did I save his life, but they successfully reattached the arm. Later, while a Pike County paramedic, I delivered a 3-pound, 3-ounce baby boy in full distress, causing me to administer CPR all the way to the hospital. Not only did he survive, but his parent named him Patrick, after me!”
Patty became an operating room supervisor, meaning, “I ruled all the surgeons! This taught me a lot about working with and leading people, especially those with strong egos. After directing a bunch of doctors, the yacht club is easy.”
Her own family are high achievers. “My late husband Rick was a helicopter pilot who served two tours in Vietnam,” she relates. “He earned two Bronze Stars and numerous other medals for valor. One mission he flew in under tremendous enemy fire to rescue a fellow crew from a downed helicopter. Not only did he save everyone, but he harnessed the crashed vehicle and flew that out too. Rick was that kind of man.” After leaving the military, he established his own helicopter business in the Columbus, Ohio, area. One job took him to the hospital where Patty worked, and he was low on gas. She drove him to the airport for fuel, thus beginning their relationship that ultimately led to their marriage and family.
Sadly Rick passed away a decade ago from complications of an ill-performed liver transplant. “He lived through all those violent military missions, then died from a medical mistake,” Patty sighs. “After everything he survived in service to his country that is unfair.”
Kaci does not fall far from the High Achiever’s Tree: “As a young girl she already had a beautiful voice,” her Mom recalls. “She wanted voice lessons, and I thought that would be cute, but the next thing you knew she was in the Columbus Children’s Choir. She was the closing act in a talent show, this tiny girl all one gigantic mass of blonde curly hair in a black dress, and sang ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow.’ The audience began to cry, and afterward many asked for her autograph. She starred in an opera sung entirely in Czechoslovakian about children in the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp, and met the actual survivor she portrayed. As my late husband was Jewish, this had an enormous impact on us.” As Kaci grew, medicine joined music as passions; she graduates this May from the Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, then begins her residency at The Cleveland Clinic.
Between all this, Patty and Rick established a 20-acre horse farm outside Columbus for world-class palominos. She learned the famous Budweiser Clydesdales would be in the region and required an appropriate place to stay. “I told Rick I was going to make it happen that they would bed down at our farm, and he said Good Luck! I contacted our area beer distributor, who provided me the inches-thick necessary protocol, including specific oats, hay, and all the specialty things these beautiful animals require. Next thing you knew, 3 semi-trucks, 2 vans and the lead support group arrived with 8 adult Clydesdales and 2 ponies. We learned the team always travels with two ponies for training. We must have done a good job because they returned a second time.” Today Patty keeps one gelding on the farm, just to keep in the business. “I love the smells of the horses and barn, “she muses. “It doesn’t get any better than that for me. That said, I raise more vegetables on the farm now than horses.”
In a lifetime of passions, leading the Fort Myers Beach Yacht Club burns bright. “We have roughly 100 members,” Patty says. “We recently converted our bylaws so that perspective applicants need a strong interest in boating, but no longer have to be boat owners. This is an inclusive policy to draw social members, and is the right thing to do. There are so many interesting people who live on Fort Myers Beach that we want to know, to learn about their lives and achievements.”
To that end, yacht club social events occur at a more rapid pace than ever. “We were in the Shrimp Festival and St. Patrick’s Day Parades, hosted Ladies Days at a shooting range and the Shangri-La Restaurant, CPR training at the fire station, and a Bayside pool party. We recently visited and made a financial contribution to the Mound House before taking a sentimental journey to Dove Key. Ten of our boats will do a big cruise to Jacksonville in April. We host fishing tournaments and cocktail parties. I was a fortuneteller at the Valentine’s Day party and sang “Santa Baby” at Christmas. At our most recent planning meeting, members committed to a greater community involvement than ever, and the more we do, the more they say ‘this is fun!’ We are spreading our wings while spreading the word that the Fort Myers Beach Yacht Club creates its own enthusiasm. There is some type of club activity almost every day, with great credit to Fleet Captain Sally Dorn and Rear Commodore Jim Kohler for planning the activities.”
A major highlight was the Commodore’s Ball, where Patty assembled a huge vintage steamer ship to fit the theme of an old-fashioned elegant cruise. “The S.S. Fun Ship filled the ballroom, and everyone got into the spirit by dressing in period outfits. The ladies wore gorgeous headbands and the gentleman distinctive spats. It was pure fun, in a classy and sophisticated way, and cost less per couple than a dinner for two at any local restaurant. It was tremendous, and showed that if you dare to stretch the envelope it is amazing what you can accomplish. When I do something, I do it right. I am already excited about next year’s Ball, when the new Commodore will sail in to New York City Harbor while ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz!’”
It is extraordinarily inexpensive to join the Fort Myers Beach Yacht Club; for information call 239-463-6240 or 415-328-5415, or see www.fmbyachtclub.org. “The Fort Myers Beach Yacht Club is the island’s best bargain,” concludes Commodore Patty. “Joining was wonderful for me socially, as now so many yacht club members are treasured friends. The more members, the more events, the more interest, the more enthusiasm, all because we love boating. The Fort Myers Beach Yacht Club is a great opportunity, so join us and see you on-board!”
Photos courtesy of Patty Korn