May 17, 1999
Friends of Linda Newkirk, Mark and Mel, helped sell T-shirts at Duvall Days in front of the closed tavern. The shirts said "Everybody Did It Her Way."
The Duvall Tavern closed on Friday night, May 7, after Linda Newkirk, its owner and operator for the past 22 years, died. The future, whether it will reopen or not, is uncertain.
As the news spread of Newkirk's passing, flowers, balloons, and mementos were laid in front of the building and more are added daily.
A straightforward, strong-minded, but compassionate woman, she was known to many who depended on her for strength and support. Mourners attended one or both services held last Friday, one in the afternoon in Seattle; or the other conducted by Pastor Dale Foote at the Duvall Church in the evening. On both occasions, Linda Newkirk was eulogized for equal-handed hospitality for people from all walks of life and for loving people in her own unique way.
The distinctive stone building on Main Street, just south of the bridge, has been the destination and second home for many people. Over the years, customers left their mark with signed dollar bills tacked to the ceiling or by carving their names into the bar tables. A stuffed iguana sat above the door and three years' worth of "Wheelchair Paul" Halloween costumes, including the tin man, hung on the wall.
A pool table, dart machine, video game, cigarette machine, and a jukebox that played 45s sat in the less than 800 square feet of space. Wine, beer, and ham and cheese sandwiches were available. Many days, Harleys and other bikes would be lined up in front of the place.
The tavern sponsored two pool teams that competed among the 14 teams that play in local mixed and men's leagues. Newkirk shot on the mixed league for the past three years but had decided to take this year off. Neither of the tavern's teams ever placed, but the men's team brought home two sportsmanship trophies.
"After coming back from college and going in the Duvall Tavern for four or five years, I remembered Linda," said Tom Loutsis. "She was my Cherry Valley Elementary School playground supervisor. She always had the playground under control and no one ever got out of line. She ran the tavern the same way. If you did get out of line, you were asked to leave. She knew the names of 85 percent of the people who walked through the front door. It was a warm and friendly place. She will be missed."
The tavern was open every day, including Thanksgiving and Christmas when Newkirk would invite people in to share a potluck meal. Newkirk considered many of her customers to be family. Her own parents were gone and she had only one brother out-of-state. Ralph Newkirk, her brother from Ohio, said that he will return in a few weeks to sort out the future of the property.
"I pray it will re-open so it will serve once again as a community center," said Dave Vassar, who said he was "one of the slaves."
During Duvall Days this past weekend, T-shirts were sold in front of the tavern to memorialize the woman who is mourned by her friends and customers.
Duvall Tavern's early history
"My father, Alvin Myers, built two buildings on the west side of Main Street in the early '30s before the end of prohibition. He leased the land," said Howard Myers.
"The first building was his restaurant, Myers Cafe, built on what was then the corner where the bridge originally stood. When prohibition was repealed, beer was served in that building. My father wanted to enlarge the space, so he moved that building off the corner to the backside of the lot and used it for living quarters. He then put up a larger second building in front and reopened it as Myers Cafe and Tavern. He had two pinball machines, a slot machine, and a nickelodeon. He served beer, wine, and light lunches.
"There was a barbershop next to the tavern, then Fern Collette's Tavern with a boarding house alongside. In the '20s, the boarding house was a meat market owned by the Wallaces.
"In 1946, I ran the place. The farmers would come in during the hay season when it was hot, especially on Saturdays, and have a party.
"In 1947, my father sold it to the Herb and Marie Phillips. After the Phillips sold it to John and Verna Watson, they put up the stones across the front," Myers added.
Two others owned it before Newkirk became an owner.
Ray Burhen remembers the early days when it was known as a "pleasant watering hole."
"It was a watering hole for the young men in the valley after we finished our barn chores. We'd go there and get juiced and build our bravery up before going to the dances at the different dance halls in the late '40s and '50s," said Ward Roney, who quit drinking many years ago, but remembers all the good times with many other old-timers.
"Ward was known as one of the only men who could handle the hot horseradish the tavern served. He ate it by the spoonful," said Pink Marty.