Beloved local celebrity clown J.P. Patches dies

Beloved local celebrity clown J.P. Patches dies »Play Video
J.P. Patches gives his fans a smile as he signs autographs after his final show in September 2011.
SEATTLE - Chris Wedes, who played beloved local celebrity clown J.P. Patches and entertained generations of kids and adults during a career spanning more than 50 years, died Sunday. He was 84.

His family was at his bedside at his death and confirmed that he passed away Sunday morning.

"We've lost an institution," said his widow, who was married to Wedes for 56 years.

The Emmy Award-winning J.P. Patches Show was one of the longest-running locally-produced children's television programs in the United States, appearing on Seattle TV station KIRO channel 7 from 1958 to 1981.

J.P. was the "Mayor of the City Dump", where he lived in a shack and welcomed frequent guests: Seattle boy scout and girl scout troops, various local and national celebrities. Among his more well-known guests were Colonel Sanders, Jacques Cousteau, Slim Pickens and Tiny Tim.

He also had a beloved cast of supporting characters - Gertrude, Boris S. Wort, Grizwold, Esmerelda and Tikey Turkey.

Many children signed up to be "Patches Pals," and J.P. announced some of their birthdays by "viewing" them on his "ICU2TV" set (a cardboard prop that created the appearance that J.P. was looking at you from inside your television).

J.P. Patches (the J.P. stood for Julius Pierpont) also made frequent fundraising appearances for local charities. He was a common sight at Children's Hospital, visiting sick kids and promoting the work of the hospital.

Wedes had suffered from a form of blood cancer for the past six years, yet still kept up a schedule of performances at county fairs and other venues. He gave his last performance in September 2011 at Fishermen's Terminal.

Shelly Cohen, who watched J.P. while growing up on Queen Anne in the 1960s and attended his last show, said he always connected with others "because he's so real."

"He's a real person, a real clown, and just amazing," says Shelly.