J.P. Patches memorial to be held at Seattle Center Chris Wedes, man behind the grease paint, died July 22 at age 84
Signs and flowers were left on the J.P. Patches statue in Fremont on July 23, 2012, the day that the actor who played him, Chris Wedes, died at age 84. (Casey McNerthney/seattlepi.com)
By CASEY MCNERTHNEY, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF Updated 02:55 p.m., Saturday, July 28, 2012
A public tribute for Chris Wedes, the man better known to generations of Seattleites as J.P. Patches, has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Sept. 8 at Seattle Center.
The tribute was announced Friday by city officials. Seattle Center staff are working with Wedes' family. The event is being held in coordination with the Seattle Center Big Birthday Bash, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.
Wedes' family has asked through his website that remembrances be directed to Seattle Children's Hospital Foundation in lieu of flowers.
At its peak, "The J.P. Patches Show" on KIRO/7 had more than 100,000 daily viewers and was broadcast in the morning and afternoon. It debuted Feb. 10, 1958, and when it went off the air in 1981 it was – and remains – the longest-running locally produced children's show in the United States.
Wedes had battled blood cancer since 2007.
"We loved Stan (Boreson), but there was never any doubt about who was No. 1 around here," former "Almost Live!" director Steve Wilson said in 2008. "J.P. Patches was our rock star."
When the statue of Julius Pierpont Patches and his girlfriend, Gertrude, was unveiled in 2008 in Fremont, more than 1,500 fans packed Fremont to greet Wedes and Bob Newman, who played Gertrude. After Wedes' death July 22, that statue turned into a memorial with "Patches Pals" leaving flowers and cards.
Wedes and Newman said they never wrote scripts for the show, and didn't think the program would have the run it did. But it turned into a local ratings juggernaut.
Hundreds of thousands of kids adored him and, as Bryan Johnston said in the book he wrote with Wedes, his advertising appeal was so profitable that the KIRO/7 sales staff should have named their kids after J.P. in gratitude.
"We still get letters and emails from people all over the world," Newman, who played 18 characters, said in 2008.
Wedes stayed at KIRO after the show ended in 1981, working in the production department. But he continued making so many trips to Children's Hospital that the medical center named its diagnostic play area after him.
Wedes also said he was honored by the letters he received weekly from Patches Pals. A few were from children raised in dysfunctional families. Some told him their parents were alcoholics or abusive, and Patches' show on KIRO was what helped get them through.
"Some of them, they bring tears to your eyes," Wedes said in 2008. "We never thought of that during the show. We were just entertaining them."