Sunday, March 12, 2017

Molly's Turn: Jamie Noehren, Brother Extraordinaire

Jamie (Jamison) Alfred Stuart Noehren
January 20th, 1941 - March 7th, 2017
I am so sad to say I am now writing a remembrance for my dear brother Jamie. He was the kindest, wittiest, crustiest, and most true man you could ever meet, someone to count on to love you no matter what.

Here's Jamie with some of the things he loved most,
Wine, Crossword puzzle, food and his garden.
And with his favorite person in the world
I've posted a brief timeline of Jamie's life with family photos.

Walt, Virginia, Christie and Jamie

Jamie was born to artist Virginia Irvin (Noehren/Hagopian) and Doctor Walter Noehren in Hartford Connecticut. His sister Christie was born almost exactly one year and one month before. 

Jamie doesn't look too happy with what Christie is doing

Jamie was the grandson of Rea Irvin and Dorothy Goodwin Irvin. Rea Irvin was the creator of the iconic “Eustice Tilley”, the top hated gentleman who graces the New Yorker magazine’s cover most Februarys. Rea was the “art director” for the New Yorker from its inception to well into the late 1940’s/ early 1950's.

Jamie's grandfather drew this as the
first cover for the New Yorker magazine

Christie believes Jamie is the model for one of these boys

When Jamie was born, Walt was an intern earning his medical degree.  It was difficult for the family to live on a student doctor’s income. They moved around a bit, eventually moving to Vancouver, Washington where Walt became one of the first doctors for the newly formed Kaiser Foundation, while Virginia was the resident artist for the Portland Oregonian Newspaper.

Jamie grew up alongside the Columbia river, a beautiful rural place very close to Portland where his mother was deeply engaged with the Portland art scene.

Home along the Columbia River

Jamie wearing his Boy Scout tie

Winter time on the Columbia

Portland artists and icons, Sally Haley (Russo) and Mike Russo were strong lifelong supporters of Virginia and also her children. Mike and Sally were regarded as extended family, Jamie kept his realtionship with them throughout his life, visting them and bringing them goodies from the restaurant, until their deaths in the early 2000’s .

Sally Haley (Russo) 
Sally gives Jamie a kiss at the restaurant
Mike Russo in his studio at home
It was through these strong artistic connections that Jamie evolved his own artistic interests. Jamie’s mother Virginia was an established calligrapher alongside her career as an illustrator. Her friendship with the great Portland calligrapher Lloyd Reynolds must have influenced Jamie, as he also became a student of Reynolds.  Jamie became a masterful calligrapher in his own right, he taught at the Monterey Community College for several years.
Here is an example of his calligraphy.

Jamie was 9 years old when his parents divorced, his father Walt establishing a career in Sandy Oregon as a doctor, and mother Virginia moving to San Francisco to work for the San Francisco Examiner. During this time Jamie and Christie would spend summers in Newtown, Connecticut with their grandparents Rea and Dorothy. The Newtown house was a beautiful old house with a swimming pond, ponies and plenty of land to roam around on.

Irvin home in Newtown, Connecticut
Lunch on the patio with Grandma Dorothy, Christie,
Mom Virginia,  Jamie, Cousin Millie, and Grandfather Rea 
It was a difficult time for the family in San Francisco, Virginia was a struggling single mom with no financial support from Walt.  Walt came down one weekend and spirited away the children while Virginia was gone, a very dark time for our mother.  In the early 1950’s, women did not have the support or legal wherewithal they have today, our mother felt powerless to retrieve her children. This was very devastating for Virginia and I think it had lasting ramifications for both Jamie and Christie. Jamie made sure to keep in contact with his mother and visited her several times a year. I have letters our mother kept from her children at this time in their lives, it was painful for all.

This is a drawing of Christie and Jamie in the kitchen on Hyde Street, San Francisco
by Jamie's mother Virginia Irvin


Jamie again


Jamie did make a new life for himself in Sandy, Oregon. His father remarried 3 times and had 6 other children (some came with the marriages), Becky, Shelly, Lenny, Darin, Carrie and Paula.  Jamie and Christie, being the oldest were counted on to help in all ways with the household. When Jamie was in the military his step-mother became ill with cancer, Jamie was excused from the military so that he could go and help raise the children. He talks of going to school in his letters to his mother, but it was many years before he actually did. Here are some photos courtesy of the Noehren clan. 

Jamie, step-sister Paula, Walt and Christie

Turns out Jamie almost always has a newspaper in his hands

Here are the squatting Jamie's

Christie and Jamie with sister and step-mother
 The ones below are from Mom when we visited Jamie and Christie about 1964. I always remember meeting Paula for the first time and being given Golden Books with fur for the fox.

Christie and Jamie
Virginia and Jamie
Jamie moved to Monterey as a young adult. He worked at the iconic Clock restaurant where he met his future wife Marie. I remember him saying to our mother that he could not believe this young vivacious woman was interested in him. Jamie fell for Marie and loved and admired her for the rest of his life. They were married for 38 years but I believe they were together for at least 40+ years.

Jamie and Marie taking their vows on their wedding day in 1979

Jamie and Marie had one child who died at birth, and Marie’s son Chad from a previous marriage. 
Jamie, Marie and Chad

They moved to Portland in the early 1980’s and opened a restaurant called Tabor Hill Café on Hawthorne Hill. It was an instant success. 
When the landlord raised the rent to an unreasonable rate Jamie and Marie sold their restaurant there and opened John’s Street Café in the Saint John’s Woods area of Portland.
Menu created by Jamie
Marie and Jamie! 
Interior of John's Street Cafe
Interior designed by Jamie

Happy customers 
makes Jamie happy
This too was a great success, totally due to Marie’s fantastic cooking and Jamie’s gracious and kind personality as host to all who came to eat there. Jamie had an “old men’s club”, old timers who would come have coffee, sit and read the paper, do the crossword puzzle, (of which Jamie was a huge fan).  Jamie would come sit with them and enjoy their company as time allowed. These guys became such good friends that after Jamie and Marie sold the restaurant (in the beginning of 2016) they would still get together for breakfast at Jamie and Marie’s home or at a restaurant. 

Jamie’s unique sense of design was evident wherever he lived and in everything he touched. He had an elegant sense of color.

These are pictures of the kitchen at home
designed by Jamie 

It was such a huge disappointment to see Jamie’s health become compromised after they sold the restaurant. He had ideas about getting back into making stained glass with Marie working alongside him. It’s a shame that he never got the chance. While art took the backburner to his restaurant business, I think he had much satisfaction with his work and the people he met through their restaurants.

I am so grateful that he and Marie were able to come and visit with us last September. I feel very lucky to have had this time with him. Here are some photos of our family visits with Jamie and Marie.

Here we are around Mom's kitchen table 
On a river trip in Portland, what are Jamie and Marie looking at?
Marie, Niece Haley, Jamie and Nephew Ryland
Jamie gives Haley a loving hug

We are saying goodby to our Mother
(that's her in the box floating in the water, she didn't want to leave
and the tide was going out so Jamie hiked up his shorts and
walked out in the water to gently open the box
and let her go.)
From left: Sam (Virginia's step-grandson), Jamie,
Ryland, sliver of Molly and Marie, Haley, Christie and Larry
Early in the morning for my favorite men, Ryland, Jamie, Larry, Sam and Kaden
Jamie was a wonderful artist, his interests were in stained glass, sculpture, printmaking, calligraphy and architecture. Here are some examples of his art.

This is a poor image of a beautiful window created by Jamie
for his mom's bathroom in San Francisco

Jamie’s interest and appreciation for music was life long. He’d make me these tapes filled with eclectic music he thought I would like. I remember once when I was a teenager, I had taken the bus down to Monterey to visit him. We were listening to music, I think it was Leon Russell, and I said “that’s awful music!”. He turned to me and said, “You can’t say that; you can’t say that’s awful music, you can say “I don’t like this music”. That’s Jamie, very clear with his beliefs. I valued him very much.

Here are some earlier photos of Jamie in my life.

1957! Christie, Virginia with newborn me and Jamie
Dinner at Christie and Jim's
Jamie, Molly, Virginia and Christie
Virginia and her three children
He was a deeply loving and caring brother to me. Although there was 16 years’ difference in our ages I always knew I had a brother who delighted in me. That was an incredible gift. As a child, I would look forward to his visits, his teasing ways and his tickling. He ALWAYS asked me if I had a boyfriend, no matter how young I was! He taught me to drive in his yellow VW bug,  I think we both have lasting memories of this! I almost killed us by doing a U-turn and almost running into a parked camper truck at full speed.

Christmas time on Willis Lane
Sam, Molly, Larry, Kaden, Ryland, Haley, Askia,
Jamie and Marie with Santa Alan in the back

Jamie was always a very clear person in how he approached life and what he believed. If he felt I was not being sensitive to something or had the wrong take on a situation he always talked me through it. His patience with me and my growing up process were a gift. His sweetness and genuine interest in my children, Ryland, Haley, step-son Sam and grandson Kaden made him someone special in their lives too. And he so approved of my sweetie Larry.

I will miss him so much.

(I used one of my favorite photos of Jamie, from our time spent in Washington,
as the source for this painting I made of him.)


  1. Molly, I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your brother. What a beautiful tribute to him you've done


  2. We go every Sunday to Join Street for brunch , always joined by our beloved Jamie. He and Marie were the very reason we regulars went for we considered them family. We loved him and miss him💔

  3. It was so very nice to meet you and your family, this is an awesome tribute to Jamie, thank you so very much! Becky Noehren