By Chris Fish
BREVARD - An artist who has touched many through his work and charming personality, Wayne Coombs will leave a lasting legacy on the Space Coast Community.
A celebration of life ceremony for Mr. Coombs, who died of a heart attack Sept 4, is set for Sunday, Sept. 23 at the establishment he put his heart and soul into creating, Mai Tiki Gallery in Cocoa Beach. Mr Coombs, 62, is known for creating the smiling, playful tiki image, synonymous with the Florida tiki.
As of now, Becky Coombs, his wife of 35 years, said the gallery will remain open, but its future remains uncertain.
"I plan on being open for a while, still," Mrs. Coombs said. "My nephew is a very good carver, and we will see if he can step up. Everything is pretty uncertain."
Born in Miami on Oct. 28, 1949, Mr. Coombs moved to the Space Coast when he was 14. He opened Mai Tiki Studio and Gallery in 1973.
Mr. Coombs inspired many in the local art community with his skill and contagious charisma.
"He inspired me a lot in the way he was always experimenting with his art," said Suzy Molnar, a local Brevard County artist. "He was a great salesman, and promoted himself and other artists very well. He gave a lot of tiki carvers jobs. He was so easy going, and he was always willing to try new things."
Mr. Coombs left a lasting impression on more than just the art community.
Cocoa Beach City Commissioner Kevin Pruett said Mr. Coombs' legacy will be felt in the city for many years to come.
"His mark on the city will be with us well into the future," he said. "He was instrumental to the tikis that (are placed throughout our community), and you can't help but think of him every time you see them."
Commissioner Pruett recalled a humorous time he rode in an airplane with the noticeably tall Mr. Coombs.
"I travel a lot for work, and nothing is a more humbling experience than having Wayne as your seatmate," he said. "His knees were up against the back seat of the person in front of us. I gave him my seat in the aisle, and I took the center seat. It was an odd sight seeing him try and squeeze in to those seats. I wish I had taken a picture."
The Celebration of Life Ceremony for Mr. Coombs will be from 1-6 p.m. at Mai Tiki Gallery, 251 Minutemen Causeway, Cocoa Beach. All are welcome.