Shon Quannie had this “ripple effect on a lot of people’s lives,” said his close friend and colleague, Kim Kanuho. “What captures his essence as a person was his kindness. No matter what it was, just his kindness was shown through to everybody.”
Their friendship started more than 20 years ago when Quannie handed the first-year Navajo college student a 4X flyer on Palm Walk at Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona. Quannie and other students back then created the student organization for Native students in architecture and design.
That flyer and his friendship set the course for her professional career. And eventually, Kanuho said, he turned the organization into 4X Studio LLC, a Phoenix-based design and print communications company that worked for clients nationwide.
Quannie designed Indian Country Today’s new logo in 2018.
Then Quannie’s business venture was built on a network of friends who became colleagues and clients.
“We met as strangers but left ASU as family and he was just always there for all of us, as part of that organization,” Kahuno said. “He became a brother to me.”
Shon Paul Quannie, Acoma Pueblo, died at the age of 48 on December 30, 2020.
Quannie was born July 30, 1972 in Flagstaff, Arizona, and graduated from Mingus Union High School in 1990, according to the formal obituary. He played the position of center on his football team. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial design from Arizona State University and graduated in 1997.
He met his wife, Danielle, at ASU and they got married in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The couple recently celebrated their 17th anniversary.
Quannie’s personality shined through his friendships that were also professional relationships.
“He was always on you professionally,” said Jaynie Parrish, another friend of more than 10 years. “He was relentless.”
Parrish recalled Quannie telling Kauhno and Sky Vasquez, another close friend, “Did you fill out this paperwork? Did you get this done?” Kauhno and Vasquez would jokingly say, “Get off my back, Quannie. I’m going to do it.” They all operated their own businesses.
Every close friend of his talked about how he was a huge ASU Sundevil fan and he celebrated it with lots of tailgating during the football season.
He actually met Jason Touchin, Navajo, through tailgating in the early 2000s. There would be close to 100 people at the tailgating and Quannie would just make connections the entire time.
“Shon is a natural at that. He was the main attraction at the tailgate,” Touchin said.
He described Quannie as having “just an aura about him.”
“You meet a lot of people in your life and he's probably one of the rare ones where you just sense how caring he is and how giving he is. And I think it's rare to meet somebody like that,” Touchin said.
Touchin suspects Quannie’s giving trait came from pueblo feasts where families would invite into the home and feed you. “So that's probably where he got his giving part of him. But I would say he gave a lot to a lot of people,” Touchin said.
Tano, Navajo, remembers meeting Quannie at a conference in 2011. Quannie asked Tano if he liked reggae music and gave him a CD that he designed the cover. Tano, who called Quannie the “Acoma Warrior” because of his large stature, recalls laughing so much at conferences with Quannie. He even had the chance to talk with Quannie before his surgery. Of course, he was joking around with Tano as always.
“My hero, brother” was “one of a kind,” Rocky Tano said. He “made you feel really good about yourself.”
Quannie was also a creative partner educator of the IndigeDesign Collab in Phoenix alongside Eunique Yazzie, Navajo.
Yazzie remembers Quannie spotting her out at an event.
“‘Hey, I know you. I follow you on Instagram,’ and he's like ‘I love your work’ and he's like ‘we should become friends,’” Yazzie recalls. “And then he was teasing me about my leggings and I'm the brightest thing walking around and don't you know like tribal colors are turquoise red and brown.” She laughed over the phone. “We were just kind of cracking up about that because we got into the color palette talk.”
The creative duo met on Sundays for the last two years working beyond the two-hour allotted time and had to remind each other to stay on track. They’d be laughing in between work.
“But he was always that type of person that just wanted to have a good time, talk about design, make some jokes, play some music, and he just, he thrived in that and I'm going to miss that,” she said.
Quannie was very accomplished and had a full plate. Besides being a design faculty associate and honors faculty at Arizona State, he served as a board member of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund.
From 2016 to 2019, he held two roles, board chairman and interim executive director, for the American Indian Chamber of Commerce in Arizona. He joined the chamber in 2013.
The American Indian Chamber of Commerce in Arizona remembered Quannie on its website.
Jon Canyon, the chamber board chairman said: "Once it is safe to gather again, we will have a special honoring of our friend to recognize his contributions to advancing American Indian entrepreneurs and businesses in our community and also to celebrate his success as a talented entrepreneur himself. On behalf of our board of directors and organization, we extend our sincere condolences to Shon's wife, Danielle, his family, and legions of friends and colleagues across Indian country and beyond who are feeling this immense loss.”
The avid movie watcher enjoyed visiting his home in Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, and loved caring for the family dog, Maci.
Quannie was predeceased by his father Floyd Quannie and his grandparents, Merrill and Mary Lou Quannie. He is survived by his wife Danielle Quannie; his mother Audry Smith (Wayne Smith); his grandparents Johnny and Geneva Ruiz and his siblings, Autumn Smith, Charlie Smith and Christopher Smith (Ashley Stence). He is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, extended family and many friends.