- June 13, 2018
Kathryn Wendt Hannon
Kathy was born on July 16, 1944 in Pittsburg, Kansas and died in her home Sept. 11, 2021. She was an especially loving wife, sister, aunt, great aunt, friend to many and a loving mother to all lost, distressed and broken people (Psalms 34:18) and animals.
Kathy was a resident of Sarasota since 1952 and graduated from Riverview High School in 1962. Unfortunately, she suffered severe neck and back injuries in a car accident at the end of her senior year, which eventually forced her withdrawal from FSU in her sophomore year and abandonment of her dream of teaching.
Her injuries grievously worsened so that she became a spastic-plagued near-invalid: she could barely stand or walk. Local doctors gave up on helping her; but she finally found, she said with God’s help, a Dr. Troup (sic) of Tampa, Florida: Dr. Troup had been one of the first to perfect Lumbar Laminectomy Surgery. She required two such operations (very lengthy) to correct what Dr. Troup discovered to have been a nearly severed sciatic nerve and a severely impacted spinal cord: she credited Dr. Troup with saving her life.
She started walking again and entered the workforce: Kathy quite naturally gravitated to women’s fashion in retail sales where, with an eye for color, design, fashion and high fashion, she was quickly advanced. She was first with Montgomery Roberts, ’64-’69, where she was promoted to junior buyer and fashion coordinator, then on to Westmoreland’s on St. Armands (’69-’78), where she was fashion coordinator, and finally the Yellow Bird, (’78-’84), where she quickly became an indispensable employee, friend and confidant to JoAnne and Hazel who were fixtures of the St. Armands retail scene for many years.
During this period she performed and sang in “Susannah,” “La Traviata” and “Amahl” with the old Asolo Opera Guild, now Sarasota Opera; “Brigadoon” with the Sarasota Players; and four years with the Sarasota Choral Society’s “The Messiah”. But she was forced to abandon yet another of her dreams due to recurrent back pain that severely limited her stage presence and voice delivery.
During her last couple of years at Yellow Bird she took private sculpting lessons with Leslie Thomas Posey, a local artist and sculpture of some national renown. Once again, her eye for color, design and natural lines had been quickly noticed by Les; so, he hired her to help finish art projects during his last years. While with Les, she met struggling artists who were moonlighting at Ringling Bros. Wardrobe Dept. in Venice and Prop Dept. in Sarasota. She was fascinated by their tales of the circus which prompted her, with her curiosity and congeniality, to start working part time in Ringling’s Wardrobe Dept. ’85 to ’87.
But once again, her eye for color, design and fashion was quickly noticed by Arthur Boccia, the in-house costume designer for all the Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey combined shows. After having been repeatedly called on by Arthur for this and that increasingly esoteric assignment, all were a test it seems, she became his assistant in ’87.
Now, Arthur was both a genius and an artist and could be cruelly unforgiving, brashly overbearing and demanding at times, especially when nearing a hard deadline. So Kathy was oftentimes Arthur’s diplomat, courier and interlocutor with all costume designers and houses in New York City and Florida, and with all circus performers, unit managers and more than a couple of times Kenneth Feld, himself. So, assistant to Arthur was sometimes a demanding task, but she was an adept at facilitation of good working relationships. Over 14 years with Arthur, Kathy worked on 14 “Ringling Circus” and 20 “Disney on Ice” shows, and other entertainment projects as well.
She interfaced directly with all circus performers and skaters of the ice shows, and she developed a special relationship with almost all of them, including the animals. Due to her fearlessness and love of all living things she took the greatest joy in measuring and fitting all the elephants for their new blankets every season, a job NO ONE from wardrobe had ever wanted before Kathy joined the circus (elephants are big, potentially cantankerous and they do stink, but Kathy said, they didn’t stink as bad as some people). She loved all the elephants and talked to each of them as individuals while measuring and fitting them. She had a special nickname for every one of them (from assorted fairy tales), each of whom she got to know a little better from season to season, for they each strongly exhibited individual personalities.
With PETA’s continued harassment of Ringling Bros. from city to city in the late ’90s, the rise of Cirque du Soleil and the public’s fickle and fleeting uproar about animal abuse it became apparent to Ringling management that the new generation’s regard for traditional entertainments was seriously eroding; thus, the Felds, quite necessarily, tried to accommodate the circus to changing trends. So Arthur’s easily recognizable and traditionally classic costume designs were replaced in the 2001 season with a radically new look from outside designers, and Arthur and Kathy were utilized less and less with each passing month until released in 2003.
Arthur and Kathy’s hearts had been utterly broken, but they both remained stoically silent about their fates as they intimately knew, more than most others, that the Felds had long been under tremendous pressure to attempt the prolongation of a 19th century entertainment platform into the 21st century. It quite simply could not have been done by John Ringling, himself; and it probably cost the Felds dearly to attempt to revivify the three ring circus. They eventually surrendered to the obvious in 2017, leaving hundreds of performers and staff with broken hearts, just as had Arthur and Kathy suffered fourteen years earlier.
With her eye for color, design, fashion and high fashion untapped, she yearned to get back into retail and working with the buying public. From her Westmoreland’s days she had learned to treat every casual shopper as though they were a long-time friend and valued buyer, which was not an easy thing to do, with aplomb. So, she started working part-time downstairs for a friend of hers (Suzy), but then with the passing of Suzy, she jumped at the chance to work at Nikki Sedacca’s gallery when it took over Suzy’s space on Palm Avenue.
She loved it there because she absolutely loved Nikki for her charm and her talent in the gathering and the designing of a stunningly unique and wide range of jewelry, fine jewelry, art and art to wear, etc.
Nikki’s select product range, combined with her gallery’s easy ambiance and low(no)-pressure sales, attracted and cultivated both the mid and higher-end clientele. In proof of this fact, Kathy often related interfacing with some quite recognizable personalities, such as one shopper who had been window shopping on a gloomy and rainy Saturday morning (as I recall): it was early, but sensing a sale Kathy unlocked the door and beckoned him to come in. Then Kathy proceeded to convert this intrigued window shopper into an avid buyer.
His name? Stephen King.
When his name had been necessarily volunteered at transaction’s end, Kathy did not raise an eyebrow, but simply replied, “Thank You, Mr. King. … … And I really love your work.” It was only at sales end, that she admitted having recognized him.
You see, she had instantly recognized him when first seeing his face pressed against the glass, but throughout their exchange had never let on. Her polite deference to his obvious wish to avoid public clamor was the result of her training at Montgomery Roberts and especially at Westmoreland’s under Mr. Westmoreland: Westmoreland’s had an incredibly famous clientele when she was there in the ’60s and ’70s (many from Casey Key and Boca Grande —if you catch the drift).
Kathy has now joined that long list of Sarasotans who will be missed by many, but most especially by me: her husband, friend, confidant, buddy, consort, lover, warrior in arms: she was the most artistic, brave, brilliant, beguilingly innocent and lovely soul I ever knew; and an absolutely fantastic chef of the finest dishes.
Given the current state of affairs in this nation and earth, what she wrote in the opening stanza of her last poem may prove to be of note, to all of us:
My Last Farewell
Oh, mourners. Pray not for me, But pray for thine and thee.
Tuesday, October 12, 11:30AM
Sarasota Veterans Cemetery
Per Kathy’s wish and most ardent demand: spend absolutely no money on anything like flowers; rather, give anything you may wish, in her name, to the Disabled American Veterans, or other worthy causes.