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On the wall of the office Chuck Matthaei occupied until his death late last month
is a Pacific blue marlin, 11 feet long.

Beneath this art of a taxidermist is a certificate signed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur attesting to Mr. Matthaei’s presence at the signing of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in 1945.

Fishing might have been his passion and his World War II Navy service a point of pride, but it is the family-owned company he led as chairman — Tacoma’s Roman Meal — that will be Mr. Matthaei’s legacy.

In 2012, he joined the celebration as it marked its 100th year.

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“His life was built on his devotion to this company,” said son Bill Matthaei.

“He was a member of the Greatest Generation,” he said. “He grew up in the Depression.”

Charles W.H. Matthaei, a Tacoma native, died Feb. 26 at age 93.

Mr. Matthaei met his wife, Helen, in New York City while performing pre-commissioning duties aboard the Missouri. They were married a few days short of 66 years, and at Helen’s memorial two years ago, Mr.  Matthaei insisted the musical selections include Guy Lombardo, whose music played the night the couple met.

An ROTC graduate, Mr. Matthaei would go on to serve aboard the Missouri for the remainder of, and then beyond, World War II. A graduate of Stadium High School in Tacoma and the University of Washington, Mr. Matthaei in 1947 joined his family’s 300-year baking heritage at Roman Meal.

“At the time, our largest sales were in hot cereal,” Bill Matthaei said. “We had some business in the Upper Midwest and in the East, and on the coast. In the early ’50s, bread began to become the dominant product.”

It was and it remains bread with a mission and a message focused on nutrition, on “Natural Whole Grain Goodness.”

“His real driving force was his interest in and commitment to whole-grain nutrition,” said Bill Matthaei. His interests included healthful living, healthy aging, childhood obesity and micronutrients.

Mr. Matthaei took two “bet-the-company” decisions with Roman Meal, Bill Matthaei said. He expanded the company’s operations to include a mill in North Dakota, and he consolidated Roman Meal’s licensing agreements. He also took the company’s products to Japan.

Mr. Matthaei was a member of Tacoma Rotary and a recipient of the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award. During his career, he was honored by his industry and within his community both for his work and his commitment.

Mr. Matthaei is survived by a brother, three sons, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at Mountain View Funeral Home, 4100 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W., Lakewood.

Seattle Times business reporter

Coral Garnick contributed.

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