Larry LaRue: Tacoma home's no longer green around the sills

After owner’s death, Tacoma home known for decades for its mint green hue gets a new coat

Staff writerOctober 28, 2013 

On some streets, one house — or one man — can become the identity for an entire neighborhood.

For 60 years at North Cedar and North 25th streets in Tacoma, that man was Ron Thaut.

And his home, for each of those 60 years, was mint green.

“It was hysterical, and the joke of the neighborhood was he’d brag about the color,” said Karen Hallis, a next-door neighbor for 24 years. “It was the color of mint green ice cream, and Ron would paint the roof a darker green.

“In his late 80s, he’d be up there tending the roof.”

Neighbors loved Ron and Eileen Thaut, and put the house to good use.

“Everyone used it to give directions,” Hallis said. “You’d tell people, ‘Turn left at the green house’ and no one ever missed it.”

Thaut died a year ago, at 88, and one of his children — daughter Kris, with husband, Jim Buskirk — bought it.

“We’d lived with Dad the last 10 years, after Mom died,” Kris said. “I grew up in this house. My bedroom was upstairs, and Dad’s workshop was down in the basement.”

Kris adored her father. And one of the first things she did after buying the home was repaint it.

Charcoal gray with a neat trim and a dark roof.

When cleaning out the basement, the Buskirks found a reminder from Thaut – an unopened 5-gallon can of paint.

Mint green.

The house, built in 1908, still had its original windows when Thaut died. None of them opened.

“They’d been painted closed, and then repainted and repainted closed,” Jim said, smiling. “We had them all replaced.”

Those weren’t the only changes made.

“It was the same old carpet, the same colors inside,” Kris said. “Every room in the house was one shade of green or another. I remember one year Mom finally asked my sister and me to paint the kitchen and dining room a cream color. Everything else …”

Green.

“The first time my daughter visited after we’d repainted, she burst out crying because it looked so different,” Kris said. “Our youngest grandchild, Reece, still really misses ‘Boompah.’ He’ll go down the steps in the basement and take a deep breath and say, ‘This smells like Boompah.’”

Thaut wasn’t unaware that some found his love of green a bit odd, but his explanation was sound.

“My dad believed green was God’s favorite color, and everyone who knew him knew that,” Kris said. “He drove a couple of vans over the years.”

Yes, they were green.

What his children and his neighbors remember more than his favorite color was his kindness. He was a little eccentric — they say he took pride in it — but would help anyone who needed it or asked.

“He was frugal, he was from the generation that had been through the Depression,” Kris said. “But if someone in the neighborhood needed something, he’d try to help them get it.”

An avid hunter and fisherman, Thaut would bring home elk and deer to eat. He’d have it butchered locally, then tithe 25 percent of the meat to charities or food banks. Into his 80s, he umpired girls’ fast-pitch softball games.

“I never had a good relationship with my father, and when I met Ron for the first time, he kind of took on the role of a dad to me,” said Jim, a retired pastor. “He was the most honest, moral man I ever knew.”

That didn’t mean he was without quirks.

“I remember one time he went to a thrift store and came home with a pair of dress shoes,” Jim said. “They didn’t fit, pinched at the toe. So Ron cut the top off the end of the shoes — his toes would stick out an inch or two — and he wore those shoes for years.”

When the Buskirks bought the house in January, three months after Thaut died, they made it clear they were going to repaint it. Some neighbors feigned disappointment that the color might change after all those years of being mint green.

“I told them we were going to keep the original color unless they wanted to contribute,” Jim said, laughing. “And a few neighbors whipped their checkbooks out.”

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638
larry.larue@thenewstribune.com

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