There’s a lot to like about Pat Cokewell, and a lot of reasons you’ve probably heard her name.
She speaks plainly and honestly, and expects the same courtesy in return, and she’s got a 49-year history in North Bend, that includes operating the Mar-T Cafe (now known as Twede’s) for 21 years, catering meals at the North Bend Fire Training Academy for 17 years, and helping to put on North Bend’s annual Alpine Days Festival.
You might also have heard her name in relation to the filming of the 1990 television show “Twin Peaks,” since her restaurant at the time, portrayed in the show as the Double-R Diner, was not only a setting in the show, but a hangout for its cast and crew during filming.
This week, you’ll be hearing her name some more, because Cokewell, 88, is being honored as the Grand Marshall of the Festival at Mount Si (formerly Alpine Days) parade.
“One of the reasons that we picked her is that she represents an involved, caring, talented citizen,” said Jill Massengill, chairperson of the Festival at Mount Si. “She ran a business and she was active in the Chamber, and was active in planning Alpine Days… She, to me, represents that kind of involved citizen spirit, that I appreciate. When I see somebody who has paved the way for the rest of us, I appreciate that about her.”
Cokewell herself puts it more simply. “I came out in 1968 and I’ve been busy ever since,” she said.
Originally from a farm in North Carolina, Cokewell grew up in the tradition of southern hospitality.
“My mother enjoyed entertaining, even back then,” she said.
That probably explains her fond memories of events that also included a lot of hard work. There was the late-night scramble in 1977 to feed the state champion Mount Si basketball team a steak dinner when they returned from the state tournament. There were dozens of fundraising pancake breakfasts for the Boy Scouts, Eastern Star, Business and Professional Women, high school groups and community festivals. There was the daily bustle in the Mar-T kitchen when Garnet Cross’s cherry pies became a “Twin Peaks” star and she had to bring in more help to meet the demand. And there was her long service to the Fire Training Academy, preparing and then delivering three meals a day, five days a week for the firefighter trainees.
“I thoroughly enjoyed that,” she said. “The firemen were so nice, and we saw so many animals there.”
A mother cougar and cub, bobcats, deer, elk and raccoon were all common sights. Bear sightings were more rare, but more memorable, Cokewell said, recalling the time a black bear came onto the porch of the camp kitchen, while the firefighters were assembled for a drill outside, a few hundred feet away.
“We had ribs cooking that night, and I’m sure it smelled good to him,” Cokewell said. But she opted not to stay and find out. “I ran out the back door,” she admitted.
She calls the basketball championship steak dinner a highlight.
“It was a restaurant full,” she said, with family members and cheerleaders all lined up awaiting the boys’ return. Their bus pulled up right in front of the restaurant, she said, with the driver honking the horn, the cheerleaders whooping and everyone applauding.
“They were just making noise, because we could do that in North Bend then,” she laughed.
She called the pancake breakfasts, “one of the most fun things we did at the Mar-T. There were many and it was always enjoyable to see community members working such as Dr. Jim Browning cooking, Maisie Davis waitressing, George Wyrsch doing dishes, and so on.”
Cherry pie fame
And those cherry pies that became one of the restaurant’s claims to fame? She thinks they got added to the show some time after the crew starting working late nights in the restaurant.
“I gave them the key, and said to just lock up when they left,” Cokewell said. “Then they asked if they could eat something, some pie, while they were there. I said ‘yes, just make a mark (on a receipt) for each piece and I’ll charge you later.’”
After the show aired, Cokewell said, every batch of pies, baked fresh in the kitchen that morning to be ready by 11 a.m., were gone by 2 p.m. and she knew it was time to bring in another shift, just for cherry pies.
“Garnet could only make so many,” she said. “But it was just wonderful to watch her work.”
The recipe is still with Cokewell, and that’s where it will stay. She will answer questions about it, though. The secret ingredient is not vinegar, nor is it eggs or liquor. “It wasn’t anything, but to have a tender crust,” she said.
Not even the New York Times, could wheedle the recipe from her. They tried after the original “Twin Peaks,” never a mainstream success, became a cult phenomenon.
“No,” was Cokewell’s answer, and she doesn’t regret it. “If I’d told them a price, I probably would have gotten it, but no.”
Like all fans of the show, Cokewell was excited to hear that “Twin Peaks” was coming back, and she made a special trip to Twede’s in hopes of finding producer David Lynch, to reconnect. She had to wait a while, and to enlist the help of his 23-year-old son, but she did get to see Lynch, who greeted her with a hug.
Cokewell has always been a hard worker, especially for her adopted home town, where she says, “I guess I just enjoyed that people here were so friendly.”
From 1971 to 1976, she was a waitress at the Mar-T. Owners Margitte and Jo Tingelstad sold her the place in 1976 and she owned and operated it until Kyle Twede bought it from her in 1997.
She married Bob Cokewell in 1980. “No one could have had a more supportive husband than I did,” she said.
In 1984, she served as President of the North Bend Chamber of Commerce, was named Woman of Achievement by the Mount Si Business and Professional Women in 1986 and became president of that organization from 1988-89. She received the key to the city of North Bend in 1997. In 2009, she officially retired from all her catering work, including the Fire Academy, where she’d worked since 1992, and then says, “I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
So, she began providing transportation to medical appointments for senior citizens, through the Mount Si Senior Center, but had to stop last fall, because she had developed her own health issues. That, she does regret.
“I miss that, I miss the people,” she said.
Cokewell is now settling into a new routine that involves, for the first time in a long and busy life, reading for pleasure and spending time with people at the Mount Si Senior Center. She is also devoted to her three sons, Fran, David and Ben, all in North Carolina, and three daughters, Nancy Lane, Jeanie Bowers and Carolyn Rodenhuis, all in North Bend, and their families.