Buhler: Remembering Pat Yoakum, Forest Grove royalty
Editor's note: Pat Yoakum was a former employee of the News-Times and forever a member of the News-Times family. We extend our deepest condolences to her loved ones and friends, one of whom contributed the column below in remembrance of her.
One of Forest Grove's friendliest citizens passed away on Oct. 27.
Whether you knew her as Pat, Patricia or Patsie, Pat Yoakum was kind of like a local celebrity, or seemed so to me. She knew everybody in town. She was always super engaged, and super excited to see you, and made you feel special and she uplifted your spirits with her infectious smile.
I met her shortly after moving here, at one of her semi-annual book sales in her front yard in Dilley. When she learned that I loved records, she gave me a box full, and her only request was that I make CDs of her Disney and comedy records. She was always more concerned about giving than receiving, and that was one of her greatest gifts.
Pat was born Patricia Claghorn in Portland, Oregon, in 1930, and was known to family and most of her childhood friends as "Patsie." Most of her extended family had lived in Portland for many years and were members of the Episcopalian faith, in which Pat was raised.
When she was 2, her family moved to Seattle, when her father, Stephen, was relocated as a chief employee of the Portland Cordage Company (where he worked for 50 years, where he oversaw the ropewalk). Pat's mom, Shirley, was very socially active in Portland and Seattle.
While living in Washington State, the family maintained strong ties to Multnomah Village, to Washington County, and to Forest Grove, where her Aunt Harriett and maternal grandparents, the Straubs, lived. Grandpa Straub had been a train conductor on the Oregon Electric.
Pat and her younger siblings, Carol and David, would take the train from Seattle every summer to stay with Harriett and Uncle Arnold Lindstrom, living in the historic Hines House on Birch Street. Pat's formative memories and connections to the Grove ran deep, and every corner would remind her of past events.
Pat was at home playing in Old Town, climbing trees and hanging out with the adults, her siblings, and sometimes the neighbor boy from across the street, Dean Warren. She remembered riding in the back of Uncle Arnold's pickup on seed sacks as a little girl during his deliveries for the Burlingham Seed company, and she had a huge crush on Arnold at the time. At Harriett and Arnold's wedding, Pat's grandma implied that Pat (age 4) would be taking part in the wedding. Pat assumed that she herself was marrying Arnold, and when that did not happen, Pat was broken-hearted, and furious at Grandma Straub. There's a picture somewhere evincing that anger.
Around this time, in the 1930s, Grandma Straub lived above Paterson's Furniture on Main, and Pat recalled that when visiting, she would ride a wagon along the sidewalk, and was able to circle the downtown blocks without any adult concern. She remembered the quiet streets of the Grove, the calm broken only by the log trucks chugging down Pacific Avenue. She and the family would regularly catch the films playing at the Grove Theatre. Years later, Pat would volunteer at the same theater during theatrical productions, helping to locate and construct props and costumes for the actors.
Pat attended Seattle schools. She worked at Van de Kamp's Bakery during the war and graduated from Queen Anne High School in 1948. Her favorite song that year was Frank Sinatra's "My Romance."
She married Marion Henderson in 1951, and had three sons: Tom, Dan and Mark. She had her mind set on becoming an RN, which she did, and worked in the 1960s as a nurse at the Masonic home for the elderly, where her paternal Grandma Annie R. Claghorn was then living.
Years later, Pat would give tours at the Grand Lodge and tell stories about her time there caring for patients, and of her Grandma Annie, who passed away there in 1967. The same year, she divorced Marion Henderson.
Pat soon moved to the Los Angeles area, near Orange, California, where her folks would also resettle, and she worked as a house mom and nurse at a home for teens dealing with drug abuse. She became involved with Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel, a religious movement that concentrated on using progressive rock music in worship. She had a positive experience in the movement, and it helped pull her out of some depressing times. While here she met Max Yoakum, whom she married in 1974.
Around 1980, when her father died, Pat and Max returned to Oregon, to Dilley specifically. With Max, Pat was involved in many new hobbies, including taking part in low-budget films, playing small parts in local productions. She would occasionally show up for casting calls and play extras in films and TV shows. She also rode motorcycles with Max, until she was in an accident in which she injured her kneecaps.
Always obsessed with literature and writing, something she shared with her father, Pat finally decided in the late 1980s to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening a book store. Called "Chapter II Books," and located at 1916 21st Ave. (the former site of Dr. D.W. Ward's medical office [ca. 1900], and now Miget's Island Grill), the shop provided a much-needed outlet for college students, and it became a meeting place for local authors, literary folks, and a weekly writer's workshop. Though short-lived, it was embraced as a sanctuary for many.
She hated to close the doors permanently around 1992, because it meant so much to her regulars, but finances forced it to be. It was around this time that she was asked to help liquidate the Co-op on 21st, in the old Creamery Building. She apparently walked in to the chaotic space, and the guy cleaning out grain bins complained that they had to shut down. Pat offered to liquidate the supplies inside, not having any prior experience with liquidation. Within a month, it was completely empty and ready for the next tenant. She was very proud of that episode.
Pat loved history. In the mid-1990s, Pat wrote for the News-Times' senior community pages, covering local people and how they spent their lives, and during that experience met many wonderful people whom she recalled fondly. She became close to all of the News-Times staff, made many friends there, and gave the columns a much-needed humanity — a personal, compassionate touch that Pat was known for.
She has also been a volunteer with Friends of Historic Forest Grove, and was involved in Friends' nude calendar, posing in the buff as Miss January: "I called Helvi Smith to make plane reservations, and the next thing I knew, I was a nude model."
More recently, she was a regular attendee of the Blather Gathering, the Friends of Historic Forest Grove's informal koffee klatch, where her stories were greatly enjoyed, and her donations of pictures, articles and books for the Old Train Station's library were appreciated.
One thing most people remember about Pat, besides her beaming smile and stories, was her collection of Raggedy Ann dolls, which she began keeping as a child and would display annually in the public library. Last year was the 25th year of displaying the dolls. Often her grandkids would help her get the dolls, which numbered in the hundreds, all loaded into the glass cabinet.
Pat was certain that she was distantly related to Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, and she would frequently remind friends of the fact. Though I could never confirm that connection, I did find that Pat was a distant cousin of Elkanah Walker, one of earliest settlers to West Tualatin Plains. The daughter of her great-grandfather Josiah L. Claghorn — Eliza Adelaide Claghorn — married Joseph Elkanah Walker, and both were missionaries to China. Pat was certainly Forest Grove royalty.
Her son Dan, her husband Max and her sister Carol all passed away within the last year, which was terribly hard on Pat. She spent a lot of time caring for her son, putting her nursing expertise into action.
Pat likely passed listening to old radio shows, which she had a passion for. She will be remembered as an outgoing, caring woman, who made people smile, and who lived every day to the fullest.
A celebration of Pat will be held at the Grand Lodge in the Alice Inkley Room, on Nov. 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Skip Buhler is a member of the Friends of Historic Forest Grove and longtime friend of the late Pat Yoakum.
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