Dad crossed over to the other side of life on Saturday morning, February 2, 2013, at 2 am. Thus ends a very symbiotic relationship between our Dad, Earl E. (Gene) Nokes Sr., and his Mount Saint Vincent family and friends – you loved him and he loved you in return. Thanks to everyone at the Mount for being so good to our Dad over the last decade and more of his life. Thanks also for caring for our Mother during her stay there as well. Many blessings to you all. We are holding a Memorial Services for Dad on February 16, 2013 at the Mount Saint Vincent Chapel on the 3 rd floor. The Services will begin at 10:30 am followed by a...
Dad crossed over to the other side of life on Saturday morning, February 2, 2013, at 2 am. Thus ends a very symbiotic relationship between our Dad, Earl E. (Gene) Nokes Sr., and his Mount Saint Vincent family and friends – you loved him and he loved you in return. Thanks to everyone at the Mount for being so good to our Dad over the last decade and more of his life. Thanks also for caring for our Mother during her stay there as well. Many blessings to you all.
We are holding a Memorial Services for Dad on February 16, 2013 at the Mount Saint Vincent Chapel on the 3rd floor. The Services will begin at 10:30 am followed by a reception in the 2nd Floor Lounge, and a Burial Service at Holyrood at 2 pm that same day.
Earl Eugene (Gene) Nokes Sr. was born in Spokane Washington on October 7, 1917. My Dad told me, “I was the smartest baby ever born in Spokane, because at the age of six months I had the good sense to leave.” As I already stated Dad passed away at the Mount on February 2, 2013. At 95 he was ready “to go.” Those are not my words, they are his. On the Sunday morning before his passing Dad told me he was ready. “I’ve traveled as far as I can on this road Don. I want to go.” But by Sunday evening he was back at the dinner table at the Mount. My wife Judy and I had bought him a new pair of shoes – sore toes, you know.
Dad looked at me and said, “Why can’t you ever do what I tell you? I said, ‘I want to go.’” He was smiling when he said it, and given his past resilience – I still wasn’t sure. So I says, “Look Dad. I put in your petition, evidently ‘Someone’ vetoed it.” We chuckled. We liked to chuckle and tease and rumpus around being the Nokes boys that we were/are/were.
Gene Nokes never graduated from anything other than 8th grade as far as I know. The story Uncle Pat told me about Dad and him and Joe and Tom and West Seattle high school went like this. “We went up to the front of the place, and there were these great big iron bars on it. Gene and I looked at it, and I told Gene, ‘It looks a lot like places we’ve already been before.’ So we went through the front and out the back….and never looked back.” And that was the extent of Nokes boys’ dalliance with higher learning.
Although Dad, Gene, was never a graduate – he was always a fierce supporter of the local schools. Here’s the version of the West Seattle fight song I learned from listening to him, “Oskie Wah Wah – Whiskey Wee Wee – Holy Muckee-Kie – West Seattle High.” Dad loved the Dawgs as well, those being the University of Washington Huskies. Wife Margie and Gene had season tickets for years and traveled out-of-state to games from time to time - but sometimes we love too much. A story I recall was a loss by the UofW to an Oregon team. The score was 3 to 2. Ed and I were listening to the game on a transistor radio, lying on the floor in the front room – when the final score was announced Dad stormed in, “That’s not football, that’s a dang baseball score.” And he punted the radio all the way into the kitchen. Dad lost his temper, we lost a radio, and the Huskies lost the game. Go Dawgs!
Gene and Margaret Sophrine Murray Nokes (Margie) were married on September 20, 1943. They raised seven of us children - beginning in a home just off Alki Beach at 54th Place SW. It was circa 1940 when they began to beget, and Margie had 7 children in 8 years – Gene Jr., Margaret Mary – Peggie, Dorothy Kathleen – Kathi, Robert William – Billy, Donald James – Don, Edward Allen – Ed, and the baby Elaine Marie. To Marge and Gene’s credit all of my brothers and sisters are still alive, walking upright, fairly spry and we are all sneaking up on our 70’s.
So, we won’t mention the rope that Margie used to tether Gene Jr. to a tree, allowing her to get her work done, which included being pregnant, while caring for daughter number one. We won’t mention the “crib cage”. We won’t mention the time the baby broke the front door window or maybe it does invite a bit of explanation.
Margie made the best meals from the least amount of food stuffs. My brother Bill quipped to me that we are probably a different species – gastronomically that is. We can eat anything, and growing up we probably did. When other people tell me they have to watch what they eat. “Well – for sure! You want to get it in your gob.”
Growing up we had two sets of parents – Gene Sr. and Margie, and Gene Jr. and Peggie – both of the surrogates were shining examples of what was expected from the rest of us. Mostly, that dual parenting thing probably bothered sister Kathi more than most, as Kathi and Peggie were not born to awfully far apart. Having an extra set of parents never bothered me much as I never listened to any of them anyway.
I recall Mom, Margie, telling me, later in life some of her parenting gems. One of which was using Alki Beach as a buffer from the kids – to get her housework done, and regain a bit of her sanity before we raided the home again. Mom used to traipse us kids across the street to the beach, leave us there, and take our shoes home with her. “I knew the sand was too hot, so you couldn’t get back across to the street, and the water was too cold – so you wouldn’t go in.” Margie’s school of parenting 101 – which also meant that Peggie and Gene were practicing their parenting skills on us as well.
Peggie and Kathi cooking up “Seaweed Soup” – should have written that one down for Martha Stewart. Brother Gene grabbing us by the ankles and dipping us into those large trash barrels to collect pop bottles lodged at the bottom. Beer bottles were a penny, Coke, Squirt, Pepsi – 2 cents each and the larger bottles were a nickel. Bill and I gormandized on much of what Peg and Kathi cooked up. Brother Ed was a finicky eater. He was like Jack Sprat – he ate his bacon with a knife and fork, and always trimmed off the fat – and he loved apples.
Ed and Elaine were both very likable people – which often confused me, as other kids like to beat up on Edward. I was in probably three fist fights in my entire life, and they were all for Ed. Most times my opponents were bigger than me, as was/is my “little” brother – bigger than me, and has been my entire life. I never fought much, but when I did fight it was for family, and usually because someone was picking on “Angelic Ed”. I wasn’t the only one, and we – Bill and I – were usually getting orders from Dad Jr. – brother Gene.
Our Dad, Gene, was a truck driver for 30 odd years, and was a brilliant strategist when it came to raising seven children. He wasn’t angry and mean – he was logical and methodical. When we kids were at home tossing the apple cart over as it were, and Margie was tolling out her warnings, “Just wait ‘til your Dad gets home.” When Gene did arrive he was thoughtful and circumspect in the application of whatever disciple needed to be meted out. So -
Let’s talk about the time the baby Elaine Marie broke the front door window. She was still in diapers, and obviously not the culprit – however, nobody was taking the blame. Now, it could have been me that broke the window, I’m not sure. As I recall I was running for my life from brother Bill who was trying to kill me (or) it could have been that I was chasing brother Ed trying to kill him. I remember instinctively slamming the door behind me, self-preservation – and then hearing a crashing, tinkling, sickening sound – and instinctively I kicked into a higher gear and disappeared. By the time Margie opened the door to find “who dunnit” – there was nothing to view but the “amber waves of grain” wafting across the vacant lot nextdoor.
Dad arrived home from work, lined up the “usual suspects” in the living room and questioned us up and down about the broken window. Nobody fessed up, the baby couldn’t talk, and so according to Gene Sr. “It must have been the baby.” Dad picked up the baby – as I recall – down came the diaper, and Dad was readying himself to administer a spanking. Both the surrogates broke down – both Gene Jr. and Peggie admitted to breaking the window. “It was me! It was me! I broke the window!” My God! It looked like the end of an episode of Perry Mason. “I did it!” I don’t recall anyone ever getting spanked for that one. All I’m saying is I may have had something to do with it, but I never returned to the scene of the crime despite what they say about criminals, and in spite of Margie’s calling my name and imploring me to return. Are you nuts? Anything could have happened to that window - Bill could have bumped it, or Ed could have run into it with his head, or the wind….too many variables – it probably was the baby.
What I liked about Dad maybe most, was his sense of aplomb. When the chips were down you really couldn’t rattle him. And believe me that house was rockin’. There was the time he had spent all weekend painting the ceiling in the dining room. Then he papered the walls so us kids could go in, take our pens and colors and draw to our hearts content – on the walls. Great parenting – a good move, until he arrived home and found pen marks and drawings on his freshly painted - ceiling. “Who’s the Michelangelo?” He gathered the kids and went around the room commenting on the art work. Peggie’s - always got high marks, but speaking of marks - This time he singled out one of mine. He mentioned that ALL the paintings were great and lovely, blah, blah, blah…..“But this one on the ceiling. Now that’s something special, but I don’t know how you could have done it.” Then I proceeded to hang myself, by telling him – “It was easy, Dad.” dragging in chairs and boxes to prove my point. Oh, I stepped in it that time. Hoisted on my own petard – Dad was great. I got a big bear hug for that one – best grade I ever got in art.
No offense to the Chinese people – I have known a few over the years, and found them to be charming, intelligent people, but when it rained in our home off Alki Beach – it was like a Chinese fire drill. We all grabbed pots and pans, looked for drips and spent the day catching water. Poor Margie didn’t have a pot to cook in depending on the severity of the storm. She probably welcomed anything that kept the kids occupied. Nothing more fascinating for a four year old than watching water…unless it’s watching paint draw and waiting to make your mark.
Gene Jr. and Gene Sr. having practically the same name evidently caused some confusion with the DMV. Dad told me a story of how he had received a $100 fine in the mail for “erratic and dangerous driving at night” – that’s as best I can recall the wording, from the Bremerton police department??? This was when Gene Jr. and Jimmy Nokes and their friend Jackson, and others were all off at college together. According to Dad, Gene Jr. had also recently asked for a bit more money for books at school – his “book money” matched the exact price of the driving ticket. According to Dad, as Gene Jr. was trying to explain his need for extra mid-quarter book money, Dad asked him, “It wouldn’t have anything to do with ‘erratic and dangerous driving’ – would it?” Busted!
Margie and Gene saved money wherever and however they could. Homemade haircuts was one money-saver that Dad employed. He had a professional barbering kit, with five separate combs, to cut our hair. He started with the longest comb, buzzed your head, put on the next comb and buzzed you again – until he had shaved your head down to a nub. He had no finesse. All his aplomb was gone - when it came to haircuts, and with four brothers in waiting – one thing you didn’t want to be was last in line. By the time the last kid got in the chair that razor was like a branding iron. Red hot! I think Bill did the best imitation of the last guy dancing in the chair – looking like a reluctant horse their going to the gallows. The best thing was when Gene Jr. took over for Dad and rescued us from having to go to school looking like we had ring worm, when what we had were red welts from Dad’s razor. God Bless brother Gene, who mercifully practiced on us, and then went off to earn money at college cutting hair there.
Mom and Dad entered the Mount together back in 2000, as I recall. Dad’s famous quote on entering the facility comes from brother Bill – “This isn’t a place people come to live. This is a place people come to die.” Dad had dropped his aplomb at the door and was firing from the lip. He had not wanted to leave the hacienda at 38th and Hanford. However, Mom had recently had heart surgery and Dad, with his Macular Degeneration (An eye disease causing blurred vision which can lead to blindness), Dad couldn’t manage mom’s meds, Dr. visits, the et al of it all.
Two cases in point – 1) Dad had to give up driving. I was talking to brother Gene about him having to take Dad’s car away. Brother Gene being the oldest and always the salesman, sold Dad on the fact that with his Macular Degeneration he really should not be on the roads anymore, and besides his Granddaughter needed a car. Dad gave up the keys to Gene.
However, Gene couldn’t remember exactly what had sparked the need for Dad to quit driving? What was the tipping point? Brother Ed explained that Dad had driven up Admiral Way hill, through a construction zone, and when he pulled up into the backyard there was a yellow hazard cone lodged under his front wheels. To this end said, “Thank God it wasn’t an orange construction helmet.” That was the end of Dad’s driving days.
2) After Mom’s heart surgery it was Dad’s job to sort her meds, weigh Mom and take her temperature. I would stop by during my workday and check over meds, Dr. appts, and instructions during my break time. Events often ended up eating up my lunch time as well.
One day, I arrive, I’m knocking and looking through a small diamond shaped window in the front door, and awaiting Dad’s arrival. Because of his Macular Degeneration he has taken to dragging through the house with him a large drop light, the kind mechanics use when working on cars. I see Dad and the light approaching the door, he opens it, I step in and I can see he’s a bit miffed. He just turns on his heels and heads back to the dining room table where he’s got Margie’s Meds and paraphernalia. “How’s Mom?” I ask. “She’s dead!” I look at Mom who is sitting, knitting in her chair in the corner of the living room, and she beams. Her shoulders jerk up and down and all around her ears. She doesn’t want to laugh out loud because that’s really going to pop Dad’s cork. “She’s dead?!” I say rather incredulously. Dad is staring at the thermometer and says, “106 degrees! She’s got to be dead!”
It took a while but we finally figured it out. With Dad using the drop light to compensate for his visual impairment, by the time he was able to focus his eyes on the thermometer, the heat from the lamp had aided in pushing the thermometer reading into the “dead zone”. Mom was very much alive and well, and as always constantly entertained by Gene’s shenanigans. But it was obvious the pair was going to have to move from there – their days there were numbered. It was no longer going to be 3210 38th SW. They were soon to be residents of The Mount.
One thing I remember Dad telling me, I was having a hard time remembering all my co-workers names – I think because there were so many customers names to remember and the work was, contrary to popular belief, very intense and time consuming – I just couldn’t remember all the names and still have a hard time today. But not Dad – he told me, “You’ve got to remember a man’s name, because in the end that’s all he really has – is his name.”
I swear Dad had that knack. He remembered everybody’s name. I would push him around the Mount and he was like a Cruise Director on a ship. He called everyone out by name…and they knew him too. In the last month or so, I’d take him out of the room and around the building just to get away from his room, and everyone said “Hi Gene.” All spoken to him in a dozen different dialects and accents. He knew them and they knew him – all races, all genders, all kinds – and all very kind to him because he was kind enough to remember them by name.
Dad, Gene Nokes Sr., kept his sanity and his sense of humor with him all the way home. He had a gift for recognizing irony, and impeccable comic timing. Something he honed growing up in a tent with 10 other brothers and sisters in West Seattle.
Back in 2010 he insisted that I take him to check on his funeral arrangements. Something to do, I drove him up to Forest Lawn to speak with the mortician. We found one out in the parking lot who greeted me as I got out of the car. I began to tell him why we had come, and in the middle of the conversation Dad rises out of the passenger seat and proclaims, “I’m the corpse!” Floored the mortician! He was stunned and stammered. Probably not used to the claimant of a funeral policy coming in to discuss his future plans, but that was Dad and Mom too, they were always trying to make it easier on the kids. “I’m the corpse!” – what a hoot.
Speaking of irony, Dad loved to pull the legs on the people up at the Mount. He seldom teased the other residents, but he liked to pick on the nursing staff and the assistants. Everyone was fair game. One gambit he had going was to wait for a nurse or attendant to walk by while we were resting together around the fish tank – aka “Sleepy Hollow”, also known as “Sleeping with the fishes”. Dad would watch a nurse walk by and then turn to me, while she was still in ear shot, and say – “That’s her. She’s the one I was telling you about.” And the nurse/attendant would stop, and say, “What? What did I do?” And Dad would just carry on the ruse, “See? See what I mean?!” And the employee would stop and laugh, and tell him that he was going to get her in trouble. He perpetrated that one for quite some time, until it got old. After a while I caught on and joined in. “There – her, she’s the one.” And I say, “Oh, that’s her. Well she doesn’t look drunk.” And the worker would implore us to stop before someone took us seriously. But, we didn’t stop. It was too much fun. “Time for you to check the medicine cabinet isn’t it Annette!” And Dad would make an accusatory tippling gesture with his thump cocked back in his mouth. For an old folk that had all but lost his mobility, Gene didn’t need a motorized wheelchair – he had an electric mind.
His hearing began to fade along with his vision, and the combination of the two brought us both into Mr. Magoo-land. Many times, he would catch me moving things he didn’t want touched, and for a guy who couldn’t see the TV – he could sure see me. Probably part of us, our growing up together, and his instinct for catching me “in the act”. My cousin Joey used to do a great imitation of his Uncle Gene flying into action, trying to rescue me before the trouble took me down. Joey would sniff at the air, rise majestically from the chair, extend his arms straight back, and bark out, “Margie, get my coat. It’s Donny.”
When I think back on Mom, she was a very brave individual. I believe it was a Murray trait. When she went in for heart surgery, she agreed to it, hopped off the doctor’s table and said, “Let’s go!” Let’s do the thing that must be done – I’ve got a quilt to finish, a card game in the works, Bingo, and she just couldn’t be bothered with trifles.
Dad had a resilience and energy that he got partially, I believe, from just rubbing up against Margie. It wasn’t a virtue or an attribute or a trait. It was just what he had – resilience. I can’t recall how many times we had gone to the emergency during his last few years at the Mount, but it had to be at least six. Some stays were brief, but others took a lot of time and thought and medical expertise – and then we’d go back to the Mount.
One visit the doctor told me of his cancerous mass on his lung. Dad had been in a lot of pain, throughout his body, and I had assumed that the cancer had metastasized and this was the last days, maybe moments of Dad’s life. Not! Two days later he was back rehabbing at the Mount.
There was the time a heart specialist had called me at work, listed all of Dad’s heart problems, and gave me the worst, most dire prognosis. I rushed up to hospital after work expecting to enter a dark room, breathing apparatus pumping last gasps, and monitors blipping green vital signs. I asked for Gene Nokes, they pointed me to a room, I walk in – all the lights are on, he’s sitting on the side of the bed eating a chicken sandwich. “I wanted a burger.” He says.
Next time we had taken him in - there was the oxygen mask, the monitors, and all the mayhem. The heart specialist had talked to my wife Judy and me about the “end game” as it were. She talked about all the strikes Dad had against him. She ticked them all off pneumonia, heart A-fib (erratic heartbeat), which had led to a minor stroke, and a slight heart attack – there’s four strikes – even for a Nokes that was enough for the “Umpire” to call him Out! The specialist ticked all of the ailments off and it must have ticked off Gene too. A day later I went up to see him and they had sent him back to the Mount. He wasn’t there anymore. People would see me in the halls and ask, “How’s your Dad?” Faces full of concern and regret, and I’d tell them to ask him themselves – he’s back. “He’s Back?!”
Consequently between Margie and Gene they had lived on practically every floor of the Mount. They had begun on Floor 5, then mom had to be moved to Floor 4 for awhile, when Mom died Dad was moved back to three. He lost the room on three after an emergency visit and an extended rehab stay. He moved back in up on the 5th floor, and after another emergency bout, was moved to the 2nd floor. Lost that after another stint in the hospital, and finally ended up on the 3rd floor South, Long Term Care Unit attached to hospice. On each floor, each unit had its own set of attendants and nurses and caregivers, etc, etc, etc. Gene learned their names, learned to love them, and they loved him in return. Again, a great big thank-you to all the members of the Mount’s staff.
There’s a drawing of Dad and a breakfast group he was part of that sits just outside the barber shop on the first floor at the Mount. You can view it on the day of the Service if you like.
Dad’s last days at the Mount were filled with what my brother Gene Jr. called “Holy Moments”. Once, he reached up, widened his eyes, appeared to be listening, and then mouthed and muttered some words I couldn’t make out – but they weren’t words for my ears anyway. He laughed, and slowly lowered himself back to his pillow. Probably sharing something special….an inside joke with a brother …or some pillow talk with Margie. She could always make him smile.
Another time he was reaching forward, and I asked him if he needed anything. To which he responded, “I’ve got to get a hold of those horses before the kids do.” Maybe he was fading back into the day with Annie and Edgar, the brothers, the sisters, the mud roads – the kids – the chaos.
For those that didn’t know, our Dad Gene only had one good eye. He didn’t tell me about it until he was in his 80’s. I never knew. He said it was never really better than 30 percent vision in his left eye all his life. This hindered his fielding capabilities, and oftentimes brother Joe wouldn’t suit him up for the baseball games. (Joe coached, played on and managed two baseball clubs for those that don’t know.) But in a pinch Joe would take both Gene and youngest brother Pat and use them to fill out his roster. FYI, Gene Sr. was the first one of the Nokes’ family to play fastpitch softball.
One last little Dad story….I used to travel as batboy for the Men’s Slow-pitch team that Gene Sr. played on later in life. Dad had good wheels and was always the leadoff batter, but was constantly and frustratingly hitting “worm killers” into the infielders’ gloves. Then one day they brought a fastpitch team up to Hiawatha playfield for a practice game. All the big hitters on Dad’s team where whiffing. They couldn’t hit their butts with both hands. But Gene Sr. steps up to the plate and hits a sizzler over the shortstop and into left center. The left fielder gets to it quickly, but by the time he raises his head and throws for second base – Gene’s hook sliding in past the tag for a double. I was shocked. Proud, but stunned. “I can hit that!” Dad says. “I just can’t hit that slow stuff.”
Dad’s life reminds me of a poem by T.S. Eliot where he talks about “Old men ought to be explorers”. Dad, Earl Eugene “Gene” Nokes, was like that….just because you can’t see, and you can’t hear, and you can’t walk, and you can’t even breathe – doesn’t mean that you stop exploring. If it all abandons you, or you must toss it all overboard – never lose the sense of adventure that is life. Reach out – love, explore….
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning. – T.S. Eliot
Love to All – it is the way, the truth and the life.....
Below is something I wrote for the West Seattle Alumni “Chinook” newspaper, back in 2009. It adds a bit of the history behind Gene’s upbringing here in West Seattle. Although it’s more about the older boys Ed and Joe. I believe it gives a bit of the flavor of the day they grew up in – you be the judge. I called it Nokesville –growing up Nokes in West Seattle.
Back in the day, when West Seattle wasn't much more than an isle tenuously attached to Seattle proper by a trestle, a set of swing bridges and a trolley that crisscrossed the Duwamish River like a leviathan loosed from “Luna Park”. Back when the roads were made of mud and buggies ran in ruts from Admiral Way to Alki Beach. Back when the shoreline was dotted with docks and the “mosquito fleet” made the morning commute look like the Rescue at Dunkirk. There, in the hollow behind James Madison middle school was a little valley known to West Seattle residents as Nokesville.
It was circa 1917 when the Nokes’ first drove their stakes into the West Seattle soil. Literally, their first abode being a surplus Army tent, where the family wintered away for a number of years before their home was finished enough to occupy. With Schmitz Park for a backyard, and the beginnings of what was to become a batch of ten children, the Nokes’ settled in on the bank of 48th and Hanford S.W.
The long and short of it was that Edgar Nokes, at 5' 2", was a full apple-crate's width away from kissing his beloved, 5' 10" Annie Sullivan Nokes, square on the mouth. Despite this drawback the Nokesville population continued to swell. Edgar supported his growing family concern by trekking daily to the West Waterway Mill, (located where the Chelan Cafe now sits), loading up discarded end slats, trucking them home, and using a chainsaw jerry-rigged to a Model-T engine to amass a mess of foot-long stove pieces.
This was the creation of a fledgling fuel business, The Nokes Fuel Company, which at its inception sold wood for a dollar a cord, and serviced the West Seattle community. The fuel company, and a list of customers, was bequeathed to oldest son Edward Nokes along with one stern admonition – he was not to dun anyone! Ed was to leave the order with the customer, and payment if need be, was left in the hands of the Almighty.
Thus, Nokesville, at its inception was a mix of Old Testament fiber and a New Testament sensibility, as Annie was a one-woman welcome wagon. Every day, she would gather the Lilies of the Field to her table, and the family never knew who was going to be passing the potatoes. If you were hungry, you ate. If you were within shouting distance, you came. One day Grandpa Rufus showed up, without a what, or a when, or a how - just a who. He was never asked to leave, and he was never separated from the family; not until death did they part. The blessing being that Grandpa Rufus had waited until the family had moved out of the tent and into their home. Rufus was not a happy camper.
"In my Father's house there are many mansions." (John 14:2). But in this mansion there was only one finished floor. The upstairs, where Edgar and Annie stored their six boys, was never more than slats, lathe and ceiling beams. There, the older boys would stake claim to their rooms by tossing articles of clothing from rafter to rafter. With wads of socks, shirts and towels, boundaries were declared and decrees decried. "There! That's my room. Don't go in it!"
Edgar never grew rich, monetarily. With ten kids, a live-in dad, and a wife who threw out the welcome mat for all-comers, who would have thunk it? The Nokes name cannot be traced or placed among the founding fathers, and they did not begin to begat alongside Arthur Denny or “Doc” Maynard. So, what made the Nokes name different than any other West Seattleites? In a word - baseball.
There was a Li’l Abner Doubleday in Li’l Edgar Nokes, and he passed this passion along to his kids in large doses. They were all infected, but Joe Nokes caught it worst of all. Why they called George Arthur Nokes “Joe”, I don’t know, but baseball surpassed a pastime and became an obsession with him.
If Joe had opted for the entertainment field instead of the baseball field, he would have been an actor/singer/dancer, who wrote, produced, directed and starred in as many movies as there were days in the week. He had two teams and five other brothers who were all proficient in the tools of the trade: they could hit, catch and throw. But Joe was the straw that stirred the drink, and each spring he would serve up heaping helpings of America’s Favorite Pastime to sport's thirsty West Seattleites. A flock of five thousand fans and more would migrate to Hiawatha playfield to be roped in, marking the foul from the fair there, and watch Joe and the boys play.
With a City League team, the “West Seattle Merchants”, and a Commercial League team, “Universal Printing”, both of which he managed, coached, and played on, Joe’s enthusiasm for the game swept other big name players up in his wake. Freddie Hutchinson, “Hutch” who notched his 19th big league win on his 19th birthday, and Jeff Heath, who batted .343 in his first full season in the majors with the Cleveland Indians – (just six points behind batting champion and baseball legend Jimmie Foxx) – both Hutch and Heath played ball with Joe. Heath once lamented the possibility of losing his contract with the Cleveland Indians if they ever caught him playing baseball with the Nokes brothers.
Emmett Watson, everybody’s favorite PI sportswriter, Times columnist and the founder of “Lesser Seattle”, also ran with the pack, played in the games, and raided the orchards that filled the valley like a Fertile Crescent right alongside the Nokes brothers.
It was Have Glove Will Travel when Joe and his band of ballplayers hit the road. Out North they ran into a young Bud Pripp led team, and Joe was quick to admit that “that guy, was a hell of a ballplayer”, but Joe only claimed to know Pripp by his number, not by name - that would change. (Bud Pripp coached Joe’s five boys at West Seattle High School.)
It's probably a good thing that Joe's two baseball teams never squared off against each other. Especially for Brother Ed, who was known to pitch both ends of a doubleheader for Joe's clubs, and for his battery mate, catcher brother Bob.
Ed Nokes, would've, should've graduated in 1927, but mother Annie held him back a year, so that he and Bob could travel through school together. Bob, however, opted out early failing to graduate, as did Joe also. Joe would have graduated circa 1930, but it was the Depression Era and on the scale of importance employment far outweighed education. After Bob and Joe left, the bypassing of public education became endemic for the Nokes' boys as Tom, Gene and Pat all skipped high school as well, none but brother Ed managed a diploma. Joe finally joined the big league ranks donning a Seattle Rainiers uniform and playing a full season in '42.
Annie Nokes had home schooled her children to a "surpassable" state, performing verbatim for them, the “Ride of Jennie McNeal” and “The Ballad of Abdul Abulbul Amir” for starters. She sang and recited to her kids to the point where all her brood learned to warble like nightingales. Led by sister Mary, Annie’s oldest daughter, a Loretta Young look-alike, the family would lie along the bank under the orchard trees, and fill the eventide with song. Nokesville: a Vaudeville, complete with actresses and athletes - all under one big tent - back in the day.
In lieu of flowers and comfort food donations can be made to Providence Mount Saint Vincent in Memory of Gene and Margie Nokes