Brushes With Fame
Kittitas County’s Celebrity Connections
Kittitas County boasts a wealth of people with name recognition across the region, the country and in some cases the world. Here are just a few.
World’s Tallest Teenager
Brenden Adams (b. 1995) is an Ellensburg native. The Guinness Book of World Records lists him as the tallest teen-age boy in the world. His father, Willie Adams, and mother, Debbie Ezell, first observed his extreme height condition when he was two months old. Doctors said his condition was caused by a disorder with the 12th chromosome. In 2008 there was a successful attempt to halt his growth when he reached 7-feet, 4.5-inches. At birth he measured 19.5 inches and weighed in at seven pounds, three ounces. See a video called “Being Brenden”. (KXLY video – click on photo or text link to view it.)
Former Travel Manager for the rock band U2
Bret Alexander (b. 1960) is a former owner of the Roslyn Café in Roslyn. Today he is the Director of Team Travel for the San Francisco Giants baseball team. Before that he was travel manager for Bono’s Dublin-based rock group U2.(Photo courtesy of Bret Alexander.)
Former Husky and Professional AFL & NFL Football Player
Chuck Allen (b. 1939) is a Cle Elum native, former American collegiate and professional football player. He graduated from Cle Elum-Roslyn High School and after 2 Rose Bowl wins with the University of Washington Huskies, went on to become a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles. He played in four AFL Championship games (1961, 1963, 1964 and 1965). He served as Vice President of Football Operations for the Seattle Seahawks for about 15 years. Today the football stadium at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School bears his name. Other professional football players with roots in Kittitas County and in the surrounding region include Brian Habib, George Strugar, Drew Bledsoe and John Kitna.
Pulitzer Prize winning Newspaper Journalist
Larry Burrough (1948-2014) was an Ellensburg native and newspaper journalist who reported and edited for the Yakima Herald-Republic. He was the California Orange County Register’s supervising editor when he received the Pulitzer Prize for an investigative series on fraud in fertility clinics. He graduated from Ellensburg High School in 1965 and got his bachelor’s from Central Washington University. He taught in Montana before joining the Yakima Herald-Republic. (Photo courtesy of the Denver Post.)
John Clymer (1907-1989) was a painter and illustrator known for work that portrayed Mother Nature and the Wild West. He was born in Ellensburg and studied art via a correspondence course and in Canada illustrating for various magazines. After marrying in 1937 he moved to Westport, Connecticut, from where he illustrated for Argosy, The Saturday Evening Post, Woman’s Day and Field and Stream. His portfolio includes work for White Horse Scotch Whisky, the Pennsylvania Railroad and Chrysler Corporation. A museum on 416 North Pearl Street in Ellensburg bears his name (the Clymer Museum).(Image courtesy of the Clymer Museum.)
Washington state’s first African American mayor
William Craven (b. 1938) was born and raised in Roslyn. He became Washington’s first black mayor on June 10, 1975, as an appointee the city council selected to fill the vacancy. Shortly thereafter Craven was elected with 272 votes to the 33 his closest competitor garnered. He served until 1980. Craven made his living as a maintenance man for the school district and also moonlighted as a caretaker-gravedigger-sexton for one of Roslyn’s cemeteries. Today at the age of 76 he is retired and still living in Roslyn. In this photo Craven just finished a day volunteering to clean up the Roslyn City Cemetery at the site where his son Tom and wife Virginia rest.
Patrick Deneen (b. 1987) is an American freestyle skier, specializing in moguls. In 2008 he was Freestyle Rookie of the Year. He was the gold medalist at the 2009 International Ski Federation (FIS) Freestyle World Ski Championships. He competed for the U.S. Ski Team in the winter Olympics held in Vancouver in 2010 and in Russia in 2014, the year he finished the World Cup circuit ranked third globally and won the U.S. Freestyle National Championships held at Deer Valley Resort. Deneen was born and raised in Cle Elum where he lives. Today he is focused on his third bid for Olympic Gold in South Korea slated for 2018. (Photo courtesy of Pat Deneen.)
Sherwood Harry Egbert
Former President of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation
Sherwood Harry Egbert (1920–1969) was born in Easton. He is a former U.S. Marine who served as president of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation and Studebaker Corporation from 1961 to 1963. Egbert kicked off production of the Avanti, based on a Lark chassis and a drive train with fiberglass bodywork. The company built 1,200 of them. (Photo of 1963 Studebaker Avanti by Christopher Ziemnowicz.)
Washoe Famous Chimpanzee
First Non-Human to communicate in American Sign Language (ASL)
Washoe (1965-2007) was an internationally known female chimpanzee born in West Africa. She was the first non-human to communicate via American Sign Language (ASL), part of a research experiment on animal language acquisition. Washoe learned about 350 words. She even taught her adopted son Loulis a few words. Her last years were spent at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.(Photo courtesy Central Washington University.)
John C. Goodwin
First Sheriff of Kittitas County
John C. Goodwin (b. circa 1849) was an early Thorp settler appointed the first sheriff of Kittitas County at the inaugural meeting of county commissioners in 1883. In the photo, Goodwin is shown with a Civil War veterans group called the Grand Army of The Republic. Photo taken circa 1895. He was the last surviving member of the group, shown in the second row, second from left.(Photo courtesy of the Kittitas County Historical Museum.)
TV Zombie extra
Wade Morisette and Nolan Weis (also see Nolan) beat 1,500 candidates vying for 300 spots as zombie extras on the ScyFy channel’s 2014 series called Z Nation, on tap for a second season in 2015. The dozen-plus shows for the first season were filmed in Spokane. (photo courtesy of Nolan Weis)
“Earl the Barber” on Northern Exposure TV series
Jerry Morris (b. 1945) lives just outside of Roslyn. In five episodes he played Earl the Barber for the wildly successful TV series Northern Exposure, filmed in Roslyn. He was also a frequent background extra in some 50 episodes. He was the owner of the real barbershop used in the television series. Jerry is also an author. His book Before the Last Storyteller’s Gone is a collection of upper Kittitas County stories based on regional folklore. Retired now, Jerry is writing a sequel to his book and working now and then in the Cle Elum-Roslyn area. (Northern Kittitas County Tribune file photo.)
Douglas A. Munro
Coast Guard Hero – its only Medal of Honor Recipient
Douglas Munro (1919-1942) was born in South Cle Elum and remains the only member of the United States Coast Guard to have received the Medal of Honor. He received the decoration posthumously for his actions as officer-in-charge of a group of landing craft on September 27, 1942, during the September Matanikau action in the Guadalcanal campaign of World War II. His famous last words, “Did they get off?” out of concern for the extracted Marines. He was buried in Cle Elum’s cemetery, Laurel Hill Memorial Park, where every year, on September 27, a graveside ceremony is held in his memory. Learn more at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Douglas A. Munro bio.
Former NFL Player and Coach, including the Seattle Seahawks 1st Coach
Jack Patera (b. 1933) is a native of Bismarck, North Dakota. Today he is retired and living in the Cle Elum area. He is a former guard, linebacker and coach in the National Football League. He played for the Baltimore Colts, drafted in the fourth round in 1955. He went on to play for the Chicago Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys. He was an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings. In 1976 he became the first head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. His career record as a head coach is 35-59-0, all with the Seahawks. Learn more about Jack Patera and the history of the Seattle Seahawks.
Born (1939-1986) in Cle Elum, Francis Richard “Dick” Scobee was an American astronaut. He graduated from Auburn High School and then attended the University of Arizona where he picked up his aerospace engineering degree. He was one of the astronauts who tragically died in 1986 commanding Space Shuttle Challenger after it suffered a booster failure during launch. (Photo courtesy of NASA.)
Former TV’s “Ax Men” reality show star
Jim “Jimmy” Smith (1956-2012) was born in Leavenworth and later moved to South Cle Elum where he set up a sunken-log salvaging business called S&S Aqua Logging. Before he lost his battle with cancer, the character, prone to emotional outbursts, starred on Discovery Channel’s Ax Men for several shows aired between 2009 and 2012.
TV Zombie extra
Nolan Weis and Wade Morisette (also see Wade) beat 1,500 candidates vying for 300 spots as zombie extras on the ScyFy channel’s 2014 series called Z Nation, on tap for a second season in 2015. The dozen-plus shows for the first season were filmed in Spokane. Weis’s family owns a local TV station. For those reasons he’s often seen in Upper Kittitas County filming his weekly show. (Photo courtesy of Nolan Weis.)
Know of any Celebrity Connections to Kittitas County that we may have missed? Write us!