J.J. "Tiny" Freeman
J.J. "Tiny" Freeman, a Seattle area legend who spent a memorable summer in Skagway in the late 1970s, died in June at the age of 72.
Freeman was known as the "Unofficial Mayor of Pioneer Square" and even campaigned for Congress on the Republican ticket from his favorite watering hole and poker den.
The Seattle P-I lamented the loss of one of the city's more memorable characters.
"What current Seattle character would call the Central Tavern his campaign headquarters, pose for a poster with only a small flag covering his 'pee-pee' and wind up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?" the P-I asked.
One of his planks, which rankled Nixon-era Republicans, was to establish a "Muscatel maintenance program" for down-and-outers, and he used the campaign to promote his own "Tiny's Veno Keeno."
Freeman was a Vietnam veteran and Agent Orange victim, and the war and heroes would bring out his serious side.
He was lured to Skagway one fun-filled summer at the beckoning of friends who found the tavern life in Seattle to their liking on visits to the Emerald City. He instantly fit right into a gold rush town searching for its past with his "five foot 18 inch" frame and derby hat.
Over the years, he was a tug boat operator and railroader, settling in Elbe near Mount Rainier. He was a good friend of Steve and Gayla Hites, whose family lived there.
Steve Hites had these words for his friend:
“My son Ryan represented the Hites family at the brief gathering for Tiny Freeman on Sunday July 28 in Elbe. Tiny had a home along the tracks of the old Milwaukee Road (now the Mt. Rainier Scenic RR) at Park Junction, and volunteered on that road in happier times. He loved to hear the whistle at the crossing, and watch the steam trains go by. Tiny had been cremated, and at the end a brief eulogy by his daughter, his ashes were thrown into the firebox of the locomotive. The engine crew had lettered the little 2-8-2 for Tiny’s favorite model railroad, the “Spaghetti Western”. His friends got on the coaches for Tiny’s last ride, and headed up the line. They all gathered later at the Elbe Tavern for a wake.
“Tiny had Post Office Box 2 in Skagway, and ran Skip Burn’s bunk house on 3rd Avenue for the summer. He had a heart as big as he was tall, and he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. As well as working in the train and engine service on many railroads, and working on tugs all over the Pacific Coast, he drove long-haul big rigs for a number of outfits, and served in Vietnam as a SEABEE.
“He always liked Skagway, and enjoyed coming back to visit. Rest in peace, old timer.”