J.P. Patches, Puget Sound’s favorite clown for more than half a century and a longtime Edmonds resident, died Sunday at the age of 84. The Northwest icon, whose real name was Chris Wedes, had fought a long battle with cancer.
Wedes, the man behind the patchwork jacket and red nose whose young fans were known as "Patches Pals," made his final appearance at The Taste of Edmonds last year.
Wedes starred on The J.P. Patches Show for 23 years, from 1958 through 1981. The Emmy Award-winning show at one time had a viewership of more than 100,000.
"He was a great man, a fine mayor and citizen who loved Edmonds," said former Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper. J.P. Patches was "mayor" of a fictional dump on his TV show.
Cooper said that he and Wedes had a similar cancer. Cooper had multiple myeloma, while Wedes had acute myeloma.
"I had several chances to meet him over my years in elected office," Cooper said. "He was a funny yet caring man as Chris Wedes. As J.P. he gave laughter to all of us regardless of age. I have been a Patches Pal since my childhood."
Cooper was on hand when Wedes helped dedicate Hickman Park in Edmonds.
"It was an honor for me to be a part of the event when we dedicated J.P. Patches playground at Hickman Park in Edmonds," Cooper said. The park was dedicated in August 2009 and has a small plaque to honor Patches on the playground.
"The county and city funded this park and it was so fitting because as J.P. mentioned that day, Dr. Hickman developed the catheter that helped save his life, and mine too. Patches Pals everywhere should mourn J.P.'s passing by celebrating his life."
According to J.P. Patches’ Web site, “J.P. Patches, as a Seattle icon, predates grunge music, the space needle, bitter‐overpriced coffee, huge software companies and the Kingdome. The only Seattle icons older than J.P. are slugs and geoducks.”
Fans—called “Patches Pals”—include Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott.
A statue of J.P. Patches and sidekick Gertrude was erected in the Fremont neighborhood in 2008.
King County Executive Dow Constantine also remembered Wedes.
“Several generations of Seattle kids owe a bit of their personality and sense of humor to J.P. Patches," Constantine said in a statement.
“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. Goodnight, sweet clown,” he said.
Fans have set up a memorial page for J.P. Patches on Facebook.
Please share your memories of J.P. Patches.