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Women In Charge

Old records indicate that when the company was founded in 1915, Charlie Patrick was “ably assisted by William A. Brushoff and Mrs. W.B. Bonekemper.” But it appears that comment understates the reality. Brushoff, of course, was an original shareholder and served as Corporate Secretary for a number of years (most likely until he retired in 1951). It is unclear what Brushoff actually did for the company. He was a stenographer at Douglas Fir Sales Co. and at Vulcan Iron Works before joining Patrick—but all signs point to his having a critical trading role in the Company.

What is clear is that the two key men in the company, C.C. Patrick and W.A. Brushoff, went off to war near the beginning of 1918. A history document compiled by Jack Patrick at the time of the Company’s 75th anniversary (heavily borrowed from for this book) indicates that, for a six-month period while C.C. and Bill were off at war, the company was left in the hands of Mrs. Bonekemper and her assistant, Grace Walsh, who “keep things alive and together until the servicemen returned.”

In reality, C.C. made the decision to bring on Mrs. Bonekemper’s husband, Wilhelm (Bill), to run the company in his and Brushoff’s absence. It seems that Patrick Co. had done business previously with Bill Bonekemper, who was running a retail lumberyard in Vancouver, Washington, at the time.

In C.C. Patrick’s words, from a handwritten letter to Bill Brushoff dated February 21, 1918:

“I held a meeting of the board of directors before leaving and accepted your resignation as director and secretary, as bylaws provide for only three directors and we had to have one on the job and elected Bill Bonekemper secretary and director. He will run the business in our absence… of course (we) can change bylaws when we return and make more directors. Anyhow, will reinstate you (if you want it). We have a prospective profit of about $8,000 on unshipped orders and made deal with Bill to pay him $112.50 per month myself, $100 per month salaries (sic) and then pay him, after deducting regular monthly salaries, ½ of profits remaining in business booked by him and shipped. This of course does not give him an interest in the $8,000 already on the books but he has to handle that, ship, invoice, etc. We may go broke but I think not as while Bill doesn’t know the game well he is a good and careful manager and I look for results. He continues to give general supervision to his Vancouver yard but has a young man running it for him.

“If this is not satisfactory to you let me know and if you wish I will take your stock off your hands but prefer you keep it and when the war is over both of us go back and build her up along the lines we talked on.”

Brushoff wrote back a few weeks later:

“I can’t see where I should have any criticism to offer regarding Pat. Co. affairs. Feel sure you handled them to the best interests of all concerned, but appreciate your considering my connection.

“The arrangement with Bill Bonekemper seems very fair, and as you say—he is a capable manager and if he handles the Co. business as he handled his yard think there should be no money lost.”

Things didn’t go exactly as planned, however. Bonekemper and the two ladies handled the Company’s affairs for most of 1918, managing to keep things afloat (sales for the year trailed the numbers from 1917, but were still significantly better than in the Company’s fledgling years).

Late in 1918, however, Bill Bonekemper contracted an illness and a short time later, in early December, he passed away. This unfortunate event did, in fact, leave the Company in the hands of the two women, Grace Bonekemper and Grace Walsh, for a time.