Harold G. Fuhrman's family and friends remember him as a good-natured man who loved playing the piano and telling jokes. When he walked into a room, "everybody would smile, knowing...

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Harold G. Fuhrman’s family and friends remember him as a good-natured man who loved playing the piano and telling jokes.

When he walked into a room, “everybody would smile, knowing what was going to come out of his mouth next was going to be humorous,” said his daughter, Janet Minar.

His grandchildren particularly liked the story about how he once got his tongue stuck to a water pipe on the farm where he grew up in Edgeley, N.D.

But during 39 years of working at The Seattle Times, including about 15 years as its general manager, Mr. Fuhrman was all business.

Janet Hammack, his assistant for 20 years, described him as “more of a serious person, not a comedian at all,” although she considered him “a very warm person to work for.”

Mr. Fuhrman died on Christmas Eve at the University of Washington Medical Center after a brief illness. He was 83.

Frank Blethen, now publisher of The Times, reported directly to Mr. Fuhrman for three years in the early 1980s.

“Harold’s an interesting guy, because if you saw Harold socially or outside the building, he was this warm, fuzzy guy,” Blethen said. But in the workplace, “he reflected that sort of military command-and-control structure which was so prominent in American business in the ’60s and ’70s.”

Mr. Fuhrman’s friend Wesley Boyd of Bellevue, who knew him for half a century and went bowling, pheasant hunting and card playing with him, said he could imagine a serious side to his friend, but never saw it.

On one road trip with their wives, “all the way there and all the way back, he’d tell jokes,” Boyd recalled. “He was a happy-go-lucky person, always smiling.”

Mr. Fuhrman was born on Sept. 20, 1921, in Edgeley, N.D. In high school, he played piano and trumpet in his own swing band, Fuzzy Fuhrman and His Professors of Rhythm.

His younger brother Donald, who played clarinet and saxophone in the band, said Mr. Fuhrman attended a business school in Fargo and a government-sponsored program at the universities of North Dakota and Colorado before he was drafted into the Army.

After serving in the Philippines with the Army Signal Corps, Mr. Fuhrman went to work in 1946 for The Seattle Times, where he met his wife-to-be, Florence. They married in 1948.

Mr. Fuhrman began at the paper as a revenue accountant in the advertising and circulation departments. He eventually became labor-relations manager, then general manager.

He retired as general manager in early 1985, but served on the board of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin until 1991.

Mr. Fuhrman had been a member of the board of governors of the Washington Athletic Club and was a longtime trustee of the GCIU-Employer Retirement Fund, a pension plan for workers in the printing and publishing industries. He also served on the executive advisory council of the Seattle Pacific University School of Business and Economics and on other civic boards.

He is survived by his wife, Florence, of Seattle; his brother, Donald Fuhrman, of Renton; daughter Janet Minar, of Redmond; son Scott Fuhrman, of Federal Way; and five grandchildren.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com