By Patti Samar
Sometimes, life doesn’t go according to plan.
That is the situation that presented itself to Laura Scaccia of Marine City when her longtime life partner and fiancé, Gary Kohs, died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism, in December 2017.
Scaccia, who, along with Kohs, has been instrumental in the reinvention and economic revival of Marine City over the past five-plus years, suddenly found her personal life in need of reinvention and a reboot.
“I was always good being the support team,” she said of her partnership, both personally and professionally, with Kohs. “I was the glue and I was the organizer. Not that I don’t have big ideas, but I like to take care of the details.” Scaccia owns and operates The Mariner theater in downtown Marine City, which has been an important spoke in the wheel of Marine City’s recent downtown revitalitzation. She and Kohs brought that project to fruition together several years ago.
Scaccia is a native of southeastern Michigan. She was born in Detroit and raised in Troy and Sterling Heights. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Oakland University in human resources and child development. Early in her adult life, she taught pre-school for a few years until she ended up working for her family’s business.
“My dad was an immigrant from Italy and he owned DCI Food Equipment,” she said. It was during her time working for the family business that she first realized she was good at organizing business operations.
When she later married and her then-husband, an engineer, wanted to start his own company, she ran the operations side of the company successfully until their divorce.
It was then that she went to work for Kohs. “I knew Gary and I knew his daughter and I said, ‘I’ll go to work for you for six months.’ Eleven years later and I’m still here.”
Together, she and Kohs built his business, Fine Art Models, and crafted it into a world-renown model making company. It is based at The Mariner.
“He started Fine Art Models with the premise to become the number one museum-quality model company in the world,” she said. “And most museums now have one of our models.”
While Kohs was a “big picture” thinker with grand ideas, Scaccia again put to work her strong organizational skills to bring his big ideas to life.
“He did all of the research, and he and the model makers had to scale down and then do the tooling,” she said, noting how hard Kohs also worked on detail. “We complemented each other. We were ying and yang. For the first time in my life, I fell in love with my best friend.
“I am also wearing a lot of hats,” she said of her role within the business, which carries on today. “That’s a benefit to working in a small company. You learn in a small company how to run everything. You get to dabble in everything and you’re never really bored.”
Once the business was established, Scaccia found that there was not only a market for newly created models, but an after-market for models purchased by previous customers who had passed away or retired from collecting and wished to see the high quality models remain in appreciative hands.
“So we will represent these models on consignment and I help find new homes for them,” she said.
When Scaccia and Kohs decided to move to St. Clair County, they fell in love with Marine City.
“This felt like home to both of us,” she said. “We were accepted by the community.”
And in return, Scaccia immersed herself into the community, seeking and finding ways in which she could give back and help others.
“I quickly got involved in the Marine City chamber of commerce and am still active,” she said, noting that she is the current vice president of the chamber board. “And I’m president of the River Rec Teen Zone.”
The RRTZ offers youth in the community a number of programs to help them explore careers, focus on health and wellness, develop technical skills and learn about financial management and responsibility. The RRTZ is in the midst of raising money to renovate its space in the old Marine City city hall building.
Scaccia, who is a mother to four grown children, has enjoyed being involved with the RRTZ. “These kids need attention and they need more interactive programs.”
She noted how her heart has been touched by the teens who knew Kohs and how they are worried about her as she carries on without him. “They check in and make sure I’m doing okay,” she said. “They care.”
Scaccia has also been involved with planning the Maritime Christmas event and the October pumpkin carving event in Marine City.
“They bring a lot of people to Marine City,” she said of the community events that she helps organize. “I like getting involved and seeing things come together through completion. And everything’s gotta be fun. If it’s not fun, then don’t do it.”
After spending 20 years married to her former spouse and 10 years in a romantic partnership with Kohs, Scaccia said she is finding herself on her own for the very first time in decades.
“I like to do things that are fun and that I have a passion for,” she said. “I’m continuing on with the things that are nearest and dearest to my heart. It’s in my heart to do these things. It’s not that I have to; it’s that I want to. Now I’m on my own and I’m not sure where that’s going to take me,” she said.