My Pal John

Damn, you're suave! Isn't he suave?

Did you ever meet a guy who is just so damn good-looking, so suave and elegant, and (even worse) so frustratingly intelligent and (here’s the worst part) so friendly and genuinely kind that you just want to turn yourself inside-out and BE this guy? That was my friend John Powers.

I met him about 4 years ago at Trivia Night. He, David Pillinger and I formed a top-flight team called The Triumvirats. We laid Roman siege to trivia questions. We won some, lost more and had a great time. I got to know this John Powers guy pretty well.

While most people struggle through life doing what they must to get by, John decided to chuck that attitude and dive headlong into something meaningful. Like most people sick of the rat race, John thought about what mattered most to him in life. What comprised his most cherished moments? What really fucking mattered?

The answer for him was “good times spent with those you love”. Some of his most satisfying moments in life were: sharing wine with a beautiful woman, listening to really great music and meeting cool, interesting people. Oh, and playing golf. Most everything else was just a burden.

Now all he needed was a business plan. He took up winemaking and set up shop at the bitter end of Chuckanut Drive, one of the most scenic spots in the United States, if not the world. As clouds rolled over the glittering waves of the Puget Sound, John set to work improving his skills at converting Washington State grapes into something worth sharing with a beautiful woman. It wasn’t easy to go from novice to expert in this very daring field, but brains and persistence are two things John had in spades.

After a few years and some success, he moved his tasting room into downtown Bellingham. Now that his wines were not just serviceable and saleable but pretty goddamn good, it was time to leave the empty islands in the shadow of the Chuckanuts and bring his smile and his wares directly to the people.

Yes, John, that thing is on.

He’d drive to eastern Washington to buy grapes, deliver them back to his humble winery in Ferndale, perfect them, then vend them at his humble little joint downtown. But wine is hardly the same without song, so John scratched out a corner of the tasting room to accommodate live music. Being a jazz fanatic, he tilted the names in that direction, but wasn’t afraid to host some of the more eclectic acts as he saw fit. If it worked with clinking glasses and happy faces, it was OK at Chuckanut Ridge Winery.

When you’re tall, handsome, smart, friendly and affable, it isn’t too hard to make friends and attract women. Friends he had in abundance, and his artist gal Jennifer is about as beautiful and kind and talented as any man could hope for. John wasn’t rich, or even successful in American business terms, but he finally had it all. His plan had come to fruition: freedom from the rat race, a respectful living that offered people the cherished moments he so enjoyed, and a beautiful woman on his arm.

That’s all any man needs, really. What’s really crazy is that I wasn’t envious of him. The man simply didn’t engender such a dark spirit from anybody. He earned only admiration. One would think this requires skill, with the tendency to be haughty too tempting for any man. But for John, it was effortless. He operated well beyond the simple tools of smiling and being accommodating. His charm and congeniality were sincere aspects of his personality. The man was preternaturally engaging and lovable.

Last week, at a charity golf tournament, John slipped and cracked his head on some pavement. It was just a freak misstep, but he landed hard. Obviously injured, he was rushed to the hospital where he remained in a coma for about a week. Today, John Powers died.

I can’t burn clich├ęd words of sorrow. It just isn’t in me, and John is worth more than that. Instead, I’d like to let everyone know that John Powers was one of those rare birds. Not only did he defy convention and carve out something that was meaningful for him and delightful in this blighted old town, he was also patron of the arts, as well as everything in life that makes it worth living.

See ya, Johnny. You will be missed.

9 Responses to “My Pal John”


  • Well said.

    We had only recently become patrons of the winery (after drinking bottles of it for a few years and riding by saying: we NEED to get IN there!). As you’d expect John welcomed us and warmly made us feel at home.

    He was on to something. I think that’s why he had that glint in his eye.

    Sad day, indeed.

  • @David Wiggs
    I started going out more often back last Novemeber, and I went to the CR Winery to check out the music and I was be-friended immediately by John. We had quite a few laughs and good stories over the past 8 months. He was genuine and authentic for sure. It was always a pleasure to go there and say hello and chat about the times and the common interests we had. I feel this loss, as a friend would, but I will never forget him, as he was a person anyone would wish they came across in life. Thanks Ted for this post…really…thanks.

  • Thank you….that was a fabulous take on my old pal Mr powers!

  • I never had the privelidge of meeting John or experiencing his wine or the tasting room and the great music that fills it’s space. I am a mother of two very young children and my chances to get ‘out’ for adult-relax time are slim. This wine room however was on my radar for a much needed, future night out. many of my friends are musicians who play there and I had heard many great things about it as well as John and how warm and friendly he was.
    I can tell you that this was an influential man…..(even though I have never met him)…and this loss is felt thruought our whole community. It’s baffeling when someone goe’s out like this. We all try to make sense of a loss like this but it can not be done. I just want all of you C.W. friends to know that I am with you from a distance. and I wish you all well. Perhaps his zest, energy and influence can carry on in each of us.

  • Cary Grant, Bellingham style.

    Great remarks, Ted.

  • Ted,

    Gorgeous wonderful verbiage, I love it. Although we have never met (maybe at the tasting room?) you and I have common thread in our lives. John Powers was such a great special friend, we have been best buds/adversaries since 1995.

    All your accolades are accurate, allow me to add one more….on a good day John could hit a golf ball as good as anyone in the world. I know, I had to pay up for the honor of witnessing it. That huge laugh, unforgettable.

  • Johnny,

    I will miss your smiling face and your wonderful put downs. My wife thoguht you were one of the funniest men she’d ever met especially when I was your target. God, I loved being your target. I’ll never forget you and can’t wait until we tee it up again.

  • I just really admire the way you captured the essence of John Powers. I personally had been frequenting his establishment on occasion, actually going there for a glass of his and Jen’s delicious Bad Bunny right after he opened. I live near there and enjoy a good glass of wine from time to time when I can afford it. I didnt know John and Jennifer, but soon made their courteous acquaintance and I felt so very comfortable sitting there having a glass of wine or two, even though I was ultimately alone. It was really the only place in town that I felt comfortable doing that alone.

    John never forgot my name once and I gained such an appreciation for both John and Jennifer’s pure being. I just moved away from Bellingham on July 7th and feel very sad about Johns tragic accident. I feel deeply for Jennifer and I am so very thankful to see how MANY, MANY friends and supporters she has.

    Once again, I just wanted to say how I felt those same feelings toward John in his presence, as he just made a person feel so equal…

  • It’s been a whole year since John left us, and the world is still missing an important element. An element of laughter, of friendship, of challenge, of good times, and of course every now and then of frustration/joy on the links. What can you say? Oh, I know…shit. I miss my friend John.

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