· Jack Roberts, 64, almost single-handedly kept two American traditions alive locally into the '90s: (1) the locally owned, independent appliance store, and (2) the wacky-pitchman TV commercial. Roberts opened his first store in 1973, built it into a five-branch regional chain, and stayed indie despite the encroachment of discount stores and national "big-box" superstore chains. In his commercials, the 6'4" Roberts (said to have been a sweet and thoughtful gent in real life) played a loud, exuberant salesman who insisted, "We won't be undersold!" Offscreen, he worked with many community groups and served as a volunteer mentor for ex-convicts, sometimes hiring them to work in his stores. Roberts died April 10 from prostate cancer. (The illness forced him to sell his three remaining stores in 2000.) Survivors include his wife, Linda, who in many of his commercials acted as his costar and comic foil.
· Jacob Christian "Jake" Barker, 22, grew up in the Capitol Hill queer community. His mother, O'Rion, runs the fetish-costume company One Wilde Knight; family friends run the Venus plus-size women's store on Pike Street. Barker was a student of Japanese language and culture at UW; he also worked at Hollywood Video's Wallingford branch, putting to use an encyclopedic knowledge of film history. Barker died March 29 after what his mother called "a valiant battle with depression."
"What none of us knew," O'Rion says, "not his friends, not his extended family, not his teachers and schoolmates, not his business partners or his new girlfriend, was quite how ill he was and for how long it had been going on.... He was an amazing person--funny, smart, honorable, generous, a good friend, a wonderful son. He was great with little kids in spite of being an only child himself. I know he knew he was loved by many, many people. It wasn't lack of love or lack of acceptance that killed him. It was that monster in his brain that grew and grew." Barker's death coincided with a public-service ad campaign by the Minneapolis-based Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), asking people to learn more about the dangers of untreated depression at www.save.org or 1-800-SUICIDE. Those who knew Barker are invited to a celebration of his life on Sunday, May 12 at 6:00 p.m. in Volunteer Park.