(WSB photo from 2007 West Seattle Grand Parade)
WSB’er Kathleen just sent e-mail to make sure we had seen the sad news that Chris Wedes, best known as J.P. Patches, has died, at the age of 84 – just one day after this year’s West Seattle Grand Parade, a parade in which he had appeared more than a few times, with his final appearance in 2010. Here’s a short story on The Seattle Times (WSB partner).
Checking WSB archives: In February 2008, West Seattle’s then-State Senator, now County Councilmember, Joe McDermott introduced a resolution honoring Mr. Wedes on the 50th anniversary of his TV show.
That picture was shared from Olympia by then-Sen. McDermott, and featured him with Mr. Wedes – who was not in his J.P. makeup – and with McDermott’s cousin Emmett Blake (“Patches Pals and West Seattleites both,” the then-senator noted at the time).
Three months later, in full J.P. Patches regalia, Mr. Wedes appeared at the Admiral Theater – here’s our coverage (with video). By then, he was already fighting the cancer that has now taken his life.
So far as we can find in our five-plus-years of archives, his final appearances in West Seattle were in 2010. He was at the May 2010 Westwood Village Street Fair. We covered his appearance, but the best photo came later, from Karen, whose friend Kristi got him to pose with her pugs:
He also rode in the 2010 West Seattle Grand Parade:
(July 2010 photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
ADDED 7:15 PM: The Times has now published a full obituary – read it here.
One more note from here: Back in May, Mr. Wedes’s wife Joan Wedes was an honored guest at the dedication of the new South Transfer Station in South Park. Since JP Patches was also known affectionately as “Mayor of the City Dump,” the city promised a tribute to him at the new building that is about as close as you get to a “dump” these days. (The dedication got little to no coverage in local media [us included] because it was overshadowed by breaking news – shortly after the ceremony ended, Ian Stawicki‘s deadly rampage began.) She’s at right in this photo we took during the dedication:
Though you can’t tell since our photo is a wide shot, Councilmember Jean Godden, sitting next to Mrs. Wedes, was wearing a J.P. Patches button.
8:14 PM: Another West Seattle-raised politician who was a Patches pal, King County Executive Dow Constantine, remembers J.P.:
Several generations of Seattle kids owe a bit of their personality and sense of humor to J.P. Patches. Chris Wedes, sidekick Bob Newman, and director Joe Towey created a remarkable world of improvised comedy that enthralled children and, with an occasional wink or double-entendre, let parents in on the backstage hilarity.
I knew this day would come, but cannot believe that it has. Good night, sweet clown.
ADDED 8:19 PM: Cynthia Reid, who knew Mr. Wedes for many years, also was responsible for bringing him to the West Seattle parade – 1996 was the very first time. She told us, “Even though Chris has been so ill, I just wasn’t prepared for the news today.”
We contacted her after reading her Facebook comment about his death, in which she explained that she was just 5 when Chris Wedes came into her family’s life, visiting her cousin at Children’s Hospital while he was recovering from open-heart surgery. “They told us Craiger wasn’t going to make it after his open-heart surgery, he’d just given up. J.P. came and spent the whole day with him, and even brought his favorite treat, Fudgesicles! Craig found the strength that day to pull thru and we’ve felt indebted to Chris ever since. … Chris was told countless times how much he helped kids who were going thru a hard time with their families. Divorce, abuse, etc, he knew he was the only constant in their lives. And every year during the parade these folks would approach him and thank him. Every story meant so much to him. He KNEW how important it was to the kids, all the kids, and especially the ones who were hurting. Please know how much he cared about each and every kid out there.”
ADDED: Patches Pal Jeff Jones shared memories too, and a photo:
A huge shoutout to my great Patches Pal friend Eric Wiseman for having JP as his special guest for BBQ a few years ago.
I have a Boris S. Wart second-meanest man in the world t-shirt my Mom gave me back in the day.
Coaching girls’ hoops at the rec center, the kids would always ask me who the meanest man was, I said me!
The … picture is me asking JP who the meanest man is, he said, Jonesy, it’s the Principal.