I was saddened to hear of the passing of Chris Wedes, the man who made the entire Puget Sound fall in love with a character named J.P. Patches. Chris, or JP if you prefer, passed away at the age of 84 after a long battle with myeloma, a form of blood cancer. But who could argue the man didn’t lead a complete life. If a person’s life is measured by how many lives that person touches, or positively influences, JP Patches measures as a giant.
Today I feel sorry for the many, many Puget Sound residents who transplanted here after 1981, or those born since who have little idea of the depth of feeling long time residents have for this clown who made so many kids and adults smile on his TV Show, which aired from 1958- 1981 and continued to entertain folks in the 31 years since at community festivals and events. Many, many times in the past 31 years JP’s appeared at Children’s Hospital bringing joy to some deserving kids.
You’ll probably think me odd but when I think of JP Patches I think of Watergate, and President Richard Nixon. As a nine-year old kid I was introduced to affable Senator Sam Ervin, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activity. It was the Watergate hearings and it was being televised daily right at the time I would normally be watching JP Patches, Gertrude, Boris S. Wort (the world’s 2nd meanest man) and the rest of the characters at the City Dump. I was so angry…day after day from February 1973 to July of 1973…I would turn on our 19″ Magnavox console TV wanting to see JP, and instead being treat to Ervin and his slow southern drawl. By the time the hearings were done it was Summer, I was sleeping in, and not watching JP or the hearings. I’m sure I watched more JP after that time, but not much. I was growing up, and five months of Watergate TV had got me out of the habit.
But I always loved the man and the character. And I know I am far from being alone. My wife was telling me this morning of a 50-year-old female co-worker who has a tattoo of JP Patches on her right shoulder and drives a car with a license plate that reads ICU2TV. Apparently her husband paid $500 for JP to make a personal appearance at the woman’s 50th birthday party. It must have been one of his last appearances. JP’s official last public appearance was nearly one year ago.
I learned for the first time only this morning that JP Patches was first performed by another person at the TV station where the young Chris Wedes worked in Minneapolis, MN. As Wedes tells it the first JP quit suddenly and he was told to take the role or be fired. He followed one of his shows producers across country to the outback that was Seattle in 1958.
It was many years ago while watching the news on KIRO TV that I first saw JP without his makeup. The anchor, for reasons I can’t remember, introduced the “plain-clothes” dressed floor-Director of the newscast Chris Wedes as the one and only JP Patches. When the camera showed the gentle smiling man, I could see where JP got his warmth. That kind of sincere warmth, kindness, and love is as plainly visible as a single cloud in the sky on a sun shiny day.
I could go on and on, but I’ll finish here. I just wanted to get out publicly my memories and my genuine love for a man who gave so much joy to so many.
Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.