Wake Me Up: A Perspective On the Life & ‘Living Wake’ of Pat Connors

March 4, 2017
By Renee Kreager

On Tuesday, February 28, hundreds of people from all over Tucson gathered at Pastiche.

The gathering was in support of a man, and his loving family, who has contributed so much to this city, Pat Connors.

This “living wake” was Pat’s own idea, and it is just like him to make something so painful and difficult – the loss of one of our most beloved – into a loving, open, supportive and nourishing event while facing his greatest transition. Pat and his wife, Julie, their family and their team, are an inspiring example of giving, supporting and living so much in service of community. Tucson will always adore Pat and his family.

As a restaurateur I muse about the exceptional community the restaurant industry is. I am well aware of how much energy and passion goes into creating the spaces we provide for our guests.

But I want to take you back to why restaurants came about – we are here “to restore.” To create a place to connect, to celebrate, and to move through our beautiful sense of sight, taste and texture.

The restaurateur is the maestro of that experience.

When that person is also a beautiful human being, we get something like the event that transpired February 28, 2017.

On this particular evening, most of us wondered, secretly and aloud, would we be brave enough to do this, to have this gathering? Would our family support us in this crazy beautiful party? I think we all learned that, were we so brave, the support is obviously tremendous in this community, and that people in this community will arrive in droves, in full-hearted support of all of its members.

Let us observe the reasons that hundreds of people came to Pastiche on Tuesday. Stories, overflowing with expressions of Pat’s generosity, his philanthropic approach to running Pastiche, how much joy his sense of humor brings, and his open and humble nature.

As I looked around at the long line of guests, the numerous tables of lovingly prepared and donated foods by fellow restaurateurs, and the tearful but smiling faces all around us, I was reminded again of the origin of the word restaurant—to restore. What is more restorative than feeling that the community in which you have most devoted your energy, time, and love is lining up to give all those precious resources right back to one of its members?

Most of us wondered, secretly and aloud, would we be brave enough to do this?

Pat has always been ready and willing to offer his support, whatever that support means in any given circumstance, to his family, his staff, his business, his fellow-business owners, as well as to local artists.

One of those artists is the musical act Peter Swan and Quartet.

“The sophistication and artistry of the group is enhanced and has flourished in the supportive environment of Pastiche,” said Peter.

The way the Pastiche staff describe Pat and Julie speaks volumes.

Take Amanda Lukas, for example.

“Pat and Julie are seriously two of my favorite people in the world,” said Lukas. “I have worked for them for over a decade, but it is easy to work for a family-run business when they embrace you as one of their own. This couple taught me through the business how important it is to take care of the community. When you take care of the community, the community will take care of you.”

Long time Pastiche bartender Tana Weaver recalled, “After being in a horrible accident, when I awoke in the hospital, Pat was the first person I saw. He is sincerely like a father to me.”

There is story after story of how impactful, supportive and kind the Connors family has been to those who work and dine at Pastiche.

And it’s impressive, to say the least, that Pat and Julie’s 20 year old son, Cole Connors, has stepped up to help run Pastiche. Cole walked arounds the wake with his head held high, taking care of the business and connecting with all of us with updates on his father. A couple laughs over stories of him trying to move things to suit his style of running the show and having his father come in and, only to say, ‘put it back!’

Then there’s Julie. Julie is made of something really special. Her smile and her expression of how much joy Pat is bringing and receiving from everyone is her focus. He is the love of her life and her best friend. This has been her career along side him, and she shared this man and this space with everyone so beautifully.

While we all now understand the importance supporting local, that was not always the case.

The Connors opened Pastiche in March 1998 and joined fellow restaurateurs in playing part in groups like Tucson Originals, where business owners gave endlessly of time and resources to showcase the importance of local.

Pat has always been ready and willing to offer his support, whatever that support means in any given circumstance.

Norma Gentry, whose PR work has included more local restaurants than you can imagine – as well as the Tucson Originals – also recounted her history working with Pat. “So many years of tireless service to the Tucson Originals and he helped to establish Originals all over the country. He always had time to share his ideas and offer help to whoever needed it. A true gentleman.”

Deanna Lundquist Chevas recalled her time working at Local First Arizona and of the role Pat played with the group. “He was pivotal in helping Local First Arizona in Tucson.”

While the food and beverage industry in Tucson advances in skill, investment and interest, my hope is we continue to greet each other as brothers and sisters and take pride in giving back to create a community we are all proud to be a part of. We should hold each other to high standards, encourage innovation and demand excellence; this needs to be done in balance with remembering the grit it takes to have sustained a longstanding restaurant and to show the respect deserved to those who paved the way for this culinary explosion happening in Tucson.

As restaurateurs we celebrate our ability to create the best we can for as many people as we can—the best food, the best atmosphere, the best rapport among staff, the best example of successful business mixed with strong ethical standards. This giving takes a significant investment of time: time shared with guests, time creating and leading a team, often resulting in much time away from family and friends. In this industry so much of our time is spent at (and on) work, we have to make extraordinary accommodations. Sometimes, we bring our family to work, where we also build and rely on a team, who become our family.

As guests, on our next visit to our favorite restaurant, let us bring an open mind to experience our time there as intended by the team that greet us, and to be grateful for a moment of being cared for and nourished.

Cheers and blessings to the Connors family, the Pastiche family and to Tucson for being such a grateful and caring community.

And, if you can, I invite you to give back to the Connors family here or stop into Pastiche.

Huge thanks to Kristen Brakke, Manish Shah, and Michael Luria for hosting and organizing the living wake.

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