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Tuesday, January 20, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Longtime Pemco Chief, 76, Beloved By Workers

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Mark Roberts lay in the hospital with a broken neck, paralyzed from the neck down. Now, unmoving, he wondered: How would he work? How would he eat? How would he live? He wanted to die.

That was in 1985, and Roberts prepared himself for interminable misery. But then the door to his room hissed open. His boss, Stanley O. McNaughton, the chief executive officer of his company, was there. He told Roberts that he still had a job, that he had good reason to go on living, that he could not let another thought of failure cross his mind again. "You will have a career," Mr. McNaughton said.

And he did. Mr. McNaughton, over the next few years, changed Roberts' job, computerizing his work and retooling his desk. He bought Roberts a van, specially equipped, for his professional and personal use.

"He changed everything for me," Roberts said yesterday. "I don't know what to do now, I feel like I just lost my father."

Mr. McNaughton, who headed Pemco Financial Services and was known for his intensely personal management style, died early yesterday at his home in Shoreline of a heart attack. He was 76.

Mr. McNaughton was born in 1921 in Eureka, Mont., and spent most of his boyhood in Fernie, B.C. In World War II he was the flight commander for the backup crew for the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

After the war he and his wife, Clare, headed for Seattle, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics and finance at Seattle University. For a time, he was Seattle University's assistant to the president. He worked for Safeco Insurance, then joined Pemco as general manager in 1961.

He leaves behind a corporate culture known for empowering its workers. He also leaves behind about 1,000 employees, many of whom were weeping with sadness yesterday and telling "Stan stories" over and over.

There's the woman who remembers the time Mr. McNaughton sent her child a birthday card; the man who lost his wallet and Mr. McNaughton offered to reimburse the money. Mr. McNaughton made a point of memorizing all his employees' names.

James R. Warren, who is writing a book about Pemco, said that Mr. McNaughton's management style evokes a business world where corporations had a moral conscience.

"He looked at corporations like individuals, and individuals have an obligation to give back to the community," Warren said. "Part of that was to be good to your employees. It was good business."

Mr. McNaughton, who donated money to causes involving children and education, was fond of saying: "A corporation is the greatest vehicle ever created to do good."

Mike Flynn, president and publisher of the Puget Sound Business Journal, said Mr. McNaughton was more comfortable having lunch with his employees than other heads of companies.

"He decided what he wanted to do with his resources. He didn't have some committee to decide," said Flynn, who emceed the ceremony when Mr. McNaughton was named Seattle-King County First Citizen in 1996. He was also named Seattle University alumnus of the year in 1986.

Besides his wife, Mr. McNaughton is survived by his mother, Ella McNaughton, Edmonds; sons Stan W. McNaughton and Paul McNaughton of Stanwood and Brian McNaughton of Spokane; daughters Linda Birchard of Edmonds, Jeanne DeBardi of Stanwood and Mary Veeder of Seattle; brothers John McNaughton of Seattle, Duane McNaughton, Lawrence McNaughton and Allen McNaughton of Camano Island, Jack McNaughton of Ocean Shores, Lynn McNaughton of Cranbrook, B.C., and George McNaughton of Mount Vernon; sisters June Winters and Joyce Higgins of Seattle and Jean Arnold of Ocean Shores; and 10 grandchildren. The funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m Saturday at St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave., Seattle, 98104.

Matthew Ebnet's phone message number is 206-515-5698. His e-mail address is: mebn-new@seatimes.com

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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