Wednesday, September 27, 2017

North Cascades Highway opening won’t be the same without Tootsie

By Mike Allende

Next spring the Diablo Gate will swing open and cars will make their first trips across the SR 20 North Cascades Highway after the yearly winter closure. Engines will rev, horns will honk, thanks will be given to our hard-working maintenance crews.

But it won't be the same.

Tootsie won't be there.

We were all heartbroken to learn that Tootsie Clark – known to many as the cinnamon roll lady – passed away this past weekend at 95. While she was never a WSDOT employee, she was every bit a part of our team.
Since 2006, Tootsie Clark helped our crews push open the Diablo Gate at the SR 20
North Cascades Highway opening. This was in 2012.

"She was my first sighting of every spring," said Don Becker, one of our maintenance supervisors in charge of getting the highway open every year. "I will surely miss Tootsie."

We all will.
Tootsie Clark shares some of her famous cinnamon rolls with our maintenance crew
at the 2010 SR 20 North Cascades Highway opening.

Tootsie had been making the trek up to the SR 20 gate opening since the early 1970s. She'd arrive early to be first in line and would hand out coffee and, yes, her famous cinnamon rolls, to those waiting in line as well as our crews opening the gate. And oh boy, were they delicious.

In 2006, Tootsie took on an even bigger role, actually helping us push the gate open to mark the opening of the pass. Her granddaughter told us how exciting that was for Tootsie. She'd then lead the procession of smiling, waving drivers through. That's where she was this past May when she pushed the gate open for the last time.
The North Cascades Highway is still open for people to enjoy. But soon the winter snow will move in and around Thanksgiving, as we do every year, the gates will close for the season. Then as spring begins to poke through, our crews will begin the tough task of clearing the snow and repairing the road, getting it ready to open.
Tootsie Clark poses with Granny Winthrop, maintenance supervisor Don Becker and some of
our other crew members at the 2015 North Cascades Highway opening.

It was always a fun, exciting time to get to the gate opening and see a crowd surrounding Tootsie, enjoying her cinnamon rolls and thanking her for, well, just being her. She was an indelible part of the North Cascades Highway reopening and we'll miss her terribly. Thanks for the memories, Tootsie. We'll never forget you.

11 comments:

Tina said...

Thank you for this lovely tribute to Tootsie. Take care and God bless.

nadapearl said...

This may be a repeat of my comments, I am not sure. Sorry if that is true. I just wish that the people who have enjoyed her coming up to the opening every year and bringing her wonderful cinnamon rolls and coffee, would try and find some pictures of her when she was younger, in the 70's and forward, It would be lovely to see her then as well as the last few years. Surely, someone has older pictures of this wonderful woman.! thank you..

mockturtle said...

Maybe the gates should be named for her.

MasterCraft Design said...

"Maybe the gates should be named for her"...that is a wonderful idea!!

Jim Postle said...

Let's re-name Diabo gate to Tootsie Clark Gate.

Erica Loynd said...

Agree with Mockturtle!

WSDOT said...

Thanks for your suggestion. We’ll discuss how to honor Tootsie’s memory after the family has had time to mourn. Naming of WSDOT facilities is a process that goes through the State Transportation Commission: http://wstc.wa.gov/Naming/default.htm

Lin Provost said...

Agree with everyone - rename the gate to Tootsie Clark Gate
Sometimes, you just need to do what makes sens without the process that the State puts up - that can take forever!

Hgunner said...

Thanks Tootsie for your love of the mountain and your yearly dedication to wave people on and through the gate and over our beautiful North Cascades pass Cascades pass. God bless Tootsie Clark.

Dave Pearson said...

Great story... we need more of them....

Andrew Brawner said...

Thanks for sharing. Made my day.

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