Clown’s a pal to all

MARYSVILLE — J.P. Patches exited his dressing room in costume.

Slowly making his way to the stage at the Marysville HomeGrown Festival, the crowd broke out in whispers and pointed in his direction.

“There he is, there he is. That’s him,” they shouted.

His handmade, yellow jacket remains the same — with checkered patches and an accumulation of random buttons he has received over time.

“I like his shoes, they are so stylish and colorful,” said 8-year-old, Brayden Reeves of Arlington. “His clothes have all mixed colors.”

J.P. Patches name and costume are unforgettable to those who grew up watching him perform on “The J.P. Patches Show” on KIRO-TV, one of the longest running local children’s shows in TV history from 1958 to 1981.

“Are you the original J.P. Patches?” yelled a fan.

“Well, I think so,” said Chris Wedes, the only J.P. Patches for more than 50 years.

As he stepped on to the stage, he grabbed the microphone and spoke to the people who inspire him to keep performing.

“It’s the kids,” J.P. Patches said. “Kids are wonderful. They have the knack of going with the flow.”

In October of 2007, Wedes was diagnosed with a blood cancer called acute myeloma — the cancer is incurable.

J.P. Patches will retire from performing within the next year.

“The medical problems are getting in the way,” he said.

Patty Berglund, 65, who lives in Lynnwood, watched him perform in person for the first time at the festival.

“When I was a little kid, I never missed him or a day of his show,” she said. “He made your imagination work.”

Berglund choked up when she heard that he was retiring.

“How can that be?” she said. “After all of the laughs?”

The laughs aren’t just a part of his act, and his wife, Joan, said what you see is what you get.

“He’s as special of a person when he’s not J.P. the clown,” she said. “He’s got a creative sense of humor and he doesn’t know a stranger.”

Wedes said his career has taught him many things but there’s one piece of advice he has for his fans.

“If you don’t have fun with what you’re doing, bag it.”

Lindsylee Wheadon: 425-339-3453; lwheadon@heraldnet.com.

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