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Originally published August 4, 2012 at 6:56 PM | Page modified August 5, 2012 at 9:15 AM

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Obituary: Harriet Shrontz, arts supporter, wife of former Boeing CEO

Harriet Ann Shrontz, wife of former Boeing CEO and Chairman Frank Shrontz, and an active supporter of local nonprofit organizations, died early Friday. The Mercer Island resident was 79.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Harriet Ann Shrontz, wife of former Boeing CEO and Chairman Frank Shrontz, and an active supporter of local nonprofit organizations, died early Friday. She was 79.

A former board president of Childhaven and member of other charitable and arts-organization boards, Mrs. Shrontz was diagnosed with breast cancer more than three years ago.

After graduating from college with a commercial-art degree, Mrs. Shrontz raised three sons and supported her husband's career as he rose to the top of one of the nation's largest and most successful corporations.

She used her art skills to draw family Christmas cards, son David Shrontz, of Santa Barbara, Calif., recalled. The family lived on Mercer Island.

A more fervent baseball fan than her husband, she became a regular presence at Seattle Mariners games after the couple joined the ownership group that bought the team in 1992 — and she didn't hesitate to tell Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln what she thought.

When the team wasn't doing well, Lincoln said, "She would come in the ownership suite, she would look at me with a smile and say, 'When are you going to get those guys to start hitting?' "

"She is a dear friend, a very gracious lady, a great partner of Frank's and, of course, the love of his life. I will really miss her, her smile and her warmth," Lincoln said.

Born in Seattle in 1932, the former Harriet Houghton grew up mostly in Iowa and Minnesota, but returned to the Seattle area in time to graduate from Garfield High School.

She met her future husband in 1954 while they were in their final year at the University of Idaho. A Delta Gamma sorority member, she was reading to a blind law-school student who was a friend of Frank Shrontz. "I went by and the rest is history, to quote a cliché," Shrontz said.

They married six months later and stayed together for the remaining 58 years of her life.

Frank Shrontz described his wife as quiet but "charming — a great sense of humor." She fully supported him in a career that frequently took him away from home and brought business associates to their dining room.

"She made great friends with many of our airline customers," and she sometimes traveled with her husband on ceremonial trips.

Shrontz went to work for Boeing in 1958 and, after a stint as assistant secretary of the Air Force and assistant secretary of defense, became Boeing's CEO in 1986 and chairman in 1988. He retired in 1996 after the successful launch of the 777 jetliner.

"The task fell to her, really, to raise the kids, which I think she did a wonderful job of," Shrontz said.

"For me personally, she was kind of a spiritual mentor," David Shrontz said of his mother. "She was religious and she believed in the higher power and introduced that to me."

Meghan Shrontz described her mother-in-law as "kind of a second mom to me" who had "a big heart" for disadvantaged people such as the abused or neglected children assisted by Childhaven.

Mrs. Shrontz was on the boards of the Seattle Art Museum, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

She also supported a ministry helping orphans in Guatemala, where a school under construction will bear her name.

Besides her husband and son David and daughter-in-law Meghan Shrontz, she is survived by sons Craig, of Seattle, and Richard, of San Diego; and daughter-in-law Lynn Shrontz, of Seattle; grandchildren Ellen and Reed Shrontz of Seattle.

Services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Mercer Island. The family suggests memorial donations to Childhaven or Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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