ACT News

Canberra says goodbye to Dickson window washer, Ian 'Scrubby' Stokes

Canberrans are mourning the death of one of the city's most familiar faces and decades of fleeting but memorable interactions.

Ian "Scrubby" Stokes, better known to many as the Dickson window washer, died at the Ainslie Village although little is known about the circumstances of his death. 

Ian Stokes at work on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive in 1999.
Ian Stokes at work on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive in 1999. Photo: Graham Tidy

Stokes was seen washing cars at his usual location last week, the intersection of Antill and Northbourne Avenue, although many noted his deteriorating health.

Hundreds of Canberrans have remembered him as a kind and caring man who worked hard despite his many challenges.

A portrait of Ian Stokes by artist Barbara van der Linden.
A portrait of Ian Stokes by artist Barbara van der Linden. Photo: Supplied

One of his friends, Pat O'Connor, said he would have turned 63 in August and would be dearly missed across Canberra.   

"Scrubby was a dear friend of mine for many years," she said. "He came from a very well to do family; he made some poor life choices, but never blamed them on anyone."

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Flowers were left at the intersection on Wednesday morning when the reports of his death began to spread on social media. 

Sarah Aulich, 45, said she visited the intersection to pay tribute to the humble window washer who cared to learn her son's name. 

Flowers have been left at Ian 'Scrubby' Stokes' spot at the Northbourne Avenue and Antill Street intersection where he ...
Flowers have been left at Ian 'Scrubby' Stokes' spot at the Northbourne Avenue and Antill Street intersection where he washed windscreens for many years. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"He was always friendly and I watched with sadness as his health deteriorated in the past few years," she said.

"He had a difficulty life but was always so polite I would give him a couple of smokes or whatever I had on me."

Flowers have been left at Ian 'Scrubby' Stokes' spot at the Northbourne/Antill intersection where he washed windscreens ...
Flowers have been left at Ian 'Scrubby' Stokes' spot at the Northbourne/Antill intersection where he washed windscreens for many years.  Photo: Rohan Thomson

Tracy Thomson said Stokes had been a family friend for many years and he had overcome a challenging childhood.

"His father was president of wests rugby union club and high up in treasury," she said on Facebook. "His mother also had a great job in the public service."

"Both died quickly after each other when Ian was a teenager and he couldn't cope. How quickly our lives can change."

Stokes' face was also familiar for the ACT arts community with his portrait by local artist Barbara van der Linden included in the Faces of Canberra exhibition, which marked the centenary of the ACT.

Rest In Peace. Ian (scrubby) Stokes. The window washer of Dickson. Photo from the faces of Canberra exhibition.

Posted by The Mandalay Bus on  Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rochel Sarah, who lived in Ainslie for ten years, told Fairfax Media said she developed a friendship with Stokes thanks to her near daily interactions. 

"We would always have a short chat," she said. "He was always kind and considerate. He always brought to me joy when we encountered one another."

Other Canberrans, such as Sally Blackwell, remembered him  on social media as "a warm-hearted, generous and honest person and a great rugby union player at Lyneham High many years ago".

Lyn Illes was one of many Canberrans who said she was devastated and crushed when she heard the news of his death.

"l had been nagging him for the last year to go and see a doctor or someone as his decline was pretty severe," she said. "Scrubby was a very intelligent man who recited the most beautiful poetry......l shall miss you mate."

Joel Bradica said Stokes often washed his family car for free because he was bored, although they always paid him.  

"I remember like 15 years ago my dad stopped on a green light to give him a can of Jack for Xmas, he almost cried," he said.

Other locals paused to recall their daily interactions with the man and his work ethic.

"He was always polite and sure he backed my son Ryan a jockey in Brisbane he talked about him every time I stopped at the lights , rest in peace champ," said Peter Wiggins.

"Out of all the window washers at traffic lights in Canberra, Scrubby was leagues above the others with his politeness, friendliness & non-judgement of others," said Lorraine Bolton.

"I often wondered what his story was and why he does what he does. I am sure many will miss him and many will forget him," said Stephen Dau.

Some acknowledged Stokes had a difficult life and had made some poor decisions, despite his positive attitude.

"Ian did make some bad choices in life but as was stated by others, he never blamed anyone else," said Ms Bolton.

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