Ann Arbor, Michigan – For friends and family, Patricia “Patty” Falkenstern was known for her artistry, love of animals, and her penchant for going out every shift at her local ice cream shop with an unusual story.
Patricia, 65, was found dead in her apartment, an apparent murder victim, on Thursday, September 1, during a welfare check. Keith Brent Koicinski, 61, charged with her murder.
Eliana Falkenstern, Patricia’s eldest daughter, remembers Patricia as a devoted mother, best friend and supportive mother to her and her sister, Madeleine Falkenstern.
“Whatever any of us were interested in, my mom made it a priority, and gave as much of herself to her as possible,” Eliana said, adding that she was particularly interested in dancing. “…my mom was behind the scenes at every performance; she was with me on every audition. She sacrificed so much of her time to support my passion.”
Patricia served as the leader of Group 4H when Madeleine became interested in animal husbandry. She often went horseback riding with Madeleine, she even built a barn and bought a pony led by Feather. Patricia herself owns a horse named O-Mi.
Patricia, better known to friends and family as Patti, moved to Ann Arbor in 2015 to be closer to Eliana, who was studying at the University of Michigan at the time. She grew up in Grand Rapids, but spent time in Manhattan pursuing art. Trained in fine arts at the Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State University, Patricia was skilled in painting, pottery, and acting.
“My mom would have done anything,” Eliana said. ‘I remember coming to her apartment in Ann Arbor and she was saying, ‘Hey, I made some watercolors last night. Want to see?’ She was always inventing something.”
Patricia’s art is often seen on the chalkboard walls at Blank Slate Creamery, 300 W. Liberty St. , Ann Arbor, where she served as shift leader from 2015 to 2020. Patricia would decorate cream walls with landscapes featuring willow trees, animals, and fairies.
“We just enjoyed getting her out of it—it was always a shout-out,” said Janice Siegler, the owner of the ice cream parlor. “She worked many shifts that we were very busy with, and she always had a story to tell the next day.”
Patricia had a close friendship with a small group of other Blank Slate Creamery employees over 40 years old — few and far between in a shop often staffed by students, Siegler said. One of those friends was co-worker Pam Monson, a “scoopologist” at the store.
“It seems like everything weird, weird, or crazy that might happen in the store—it happened while Patty was there,” Monson said. “She’s always had to deal with really weird things.”
One such example – recounted with laughter by Siegler – featured Patricia stalking a man who tried to steal a woman’s shirt that was too small from a mannequin in the store.
“To hear her tell the story…just go after this guy,” Siegler said. She was like, ‘Take off that shirt now. I stole this shirt. And you know what? I got to the door with him. The shirt has been taken off. He left the shop without a shirt. It was just funny – Patty was a force to be reckoned with.”
Patricia was also known to cosmetology as the customer name-memory employee who acted as a mother figure for the younger staff.
“She had the ability to connect with people and really read a lot about someone,” Siegler said. “…I just paid attention.”
Eliana said that care extended to the animals, too. Their home in the Grand Rapids area used to host a variety of critters, including horses, chickens, rabbits, cats and dogs.
“My mother was always someone who would find a stray animal, and she wanted to take it in,” Eliana said. “That was another thing about her. She really wanted to take care of animals and people only.”
Ileana said her mother was ultimately her best friend.
“I am fortunate to say that in the time I had with her, she was my best friend,” she said. “And it probably always will be.”
Eliana has a hard time understanding the way her mother died. Koiçinski was accused of strangling a 65-year-old woman with a vacuum cleaner cord in the Court House Square apartments, 100 S Fourth Avenue, after the two argued over food, according to testimony by an Ann Arbor police detective. Police said it was believed that Koczynski stayed in the apartment for two days after that.
An Ann Arbor man allegedly killed his neighbor after a dispute over food, then stayed for two days
“It was very difficult to wrap my head around the motives of my mother’s accused killer and why someone would want to do this to someone who was so nice and kind,” Eliana said. “All I really want is to see justice for my mother and to make sure he is held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Beginning Monday, September 12, Blank Slate Creamery will be collecting donations for Huron Valley Humane Society to be donated in Patricia’s name, which is organized by Monson. Donations will be collected at the Ann Arbor and Brighton locations.
Kwiecinski is currently being held in the Washtenau County Jail without bond. He is scheduled to hold a conference hearing for the probable cause on September 15.
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