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Sunday, May 13, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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H. Dewayne Kreager, business leader, dies at 88

Seattle Times staff reporter

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In a 1981 interview, banker H. Dewayne Kreager said what he really wanted to do after graduating from Washington State University was to become a newspaper reporter.

He got a newspaper job in Juneau and lasted three months, quitting because the pay was so awful. That career decision would have profound effects on the Pacific Northwest.

Known as "Kreag," to his friends, he came to know presidents and businessmen, politicians and civic leaders, and to be a driving force behind the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle.

Mr. Kreager, a resident of Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood, died last Sunday (May 6) after suffering a stroke about two years ago. He was 88.

"He would just keep me captivated with stories about Washington, D.C.," said Glenn Harrington, a retired Seattle businessman and longtime friend of Mr. Kreager's. "Of going on Truman's yacht on the Potomac, of learning to drink Jack Daniel's. You name a figure in Seattle's business community, and Kreag knew them. There aren't many people like that left."

Indeed, in a 1968 Seattle magazine article about "The Establishment" that ran the city, Mr. Kreager was listed in the top five.

That influential role gave Mr. Kreager insight into how Seattle operated. Harrington recalled how Mr. Kreager helped start the 1962 Seattle World's Fair with a friend, Western International Hotels President Eddie Carlson, who drew the famed napkin sketch of the Space Needle.

"Kreag tried to get financing together for the World's Fair, and he'd go from one bank to another, and he'd tell me who was and was not cooperative," said Harrington. "And in the end, everyone took credit for it."

The path to such adventures began in Ritzville, Adams County, and led to Mr. Kreager's graduation from WSU in 1934, followed by graduate study at Duke University and a doctorate from Harvard in 1947.

From 1941 to 1946, Mr. Kreager was with the federal Foreign Economic Administration. In 1946 and 1947, he worked with the State Department as assistant director of the Foreign Service Institute. From 1947 to 1953, he was with the executive office and White House staff for President Truman.

From 1953 to 1957, he was a consulting economist with then-White House chief of staff John Steelman. Returning to Washington state, he was the first director of the state Department of Commerce and Economic Development from 1957 to 1960. From 1958 to 1963, he was a member of the World's Fair Commission.

But he was just getting started.

From 1971 to 1985, he was chairman and chief executive officer of the Pacific First Federal Savings Bank, which grew to have assets of $4.5 billion.

Work wasn't enough to occupy his energies, however, as evidenced in his range of community activities.

He was a regent at WSU, a trustee at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, president of the Seattle Opera from 1975 to 1978, founding chairman of the Washington State Council on International Trade, chairman of a state business mission to China in 1979, and a vice chairman and board member of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center from 1982 to 1990.

Mr. Kreager also served on the boards of a number of prominent businesses.

"Some people just have this knack for doing things and doing them efficiently," Harrington said.

Mr. Kreager is survived by his wife of 30 years, Betty; two sons, Phil and Bill Kreager; two stepchildren, Bob Shell and Sandra Rook; and numerous grandchildren.

A private service and a public memorial service are planned. Remembrances may be made to an Alzheimer's or diabetes foundation.

Peyton Whitely can be reached at 206-464-2259 or pwhitely@seattletimes.com.

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