TACOMA, WASH. — Charles Matthaei, chairman of the board at Roman Meal Co. and an outspoken advocate for whole grains for longer than half a century, died Feb. 26. He was 93 years old.
A World War II veteran and University of Washington class of 1943 alumnus, Mr. Matthaei studied chemical engineering before he was called to duty on the battleship USS Missouri. After returning from the Pacific, he went to work for the family business: Roman Meal Co. Under his leadership, Roman Meal bread became a staple in kitchens across the United States.
During his tenure, Mr. Matthaei developed a whole grain based diet plan; a national television advertising program, and saw Roman Meal Bread become the largest selling single brand of variety bread in the United States. He also established a milling company in North Dakota, and introduced the company’s products to Japan and other Pacific Rim countries. He also was the driving force behind the company registering the trademark, “Natural Whole Grain Goodness.”
In 2008, he was inducted into the Baking Hall of Fame. At the time of his induction, he said the work in improving nutrition in the United States is far from complete.
“Today, for the first time in our history, school children are predicted to have a shorter life span than those of their parents because of obesity and a lack of exercise,” he said. “If bakers will promote the use of sandwiches made with whole grain bread and buns for school lunches in order to get children accustomed to eating whole grain food and also provide schools with nutritional information for the children and more importantly for the children to take home for their parents, I believe bakers can do a great deal for improving the life expectancy of today’s children.”
Last fall, he was presented with the 2013 University of Washington Distinguished Alumni Veteran Award at the Veterans Day Celebration and Ceremony at the Medal of Honor Memorial, University of Washington Seattle on Nov. 11. Mr. Matthaei was recognized for his naval service and a lifetime of philanthropy, civic activism and passionate advocacy of research and programs that promote wellness.
Over the years, Mr. Matthaei developed a working relationship with the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI), a health and wellness research organization connected to Oregon State University. As a result, Roman Meal sponsors the LPI Healthy Aging Program and partners with LPI on many health and wellness initiatives. Mr. Matthaei has been recognized by several Pacific Northwest community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, Tacoma Rotary and the MultiCare Health Foundation and Center for Healthy Living.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Helen. Survivors include a brother George (Jean); three sons, Bill (Joan), Fred (Dianne), and Dick (Marcia); seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and lots of friends and business associates.
A memorial service will be held March 13 at Mountain View Funeral Home, 4100 Steilacoom Blvd. SW, Lakewood, WA 98499, 253-584-0252. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to MultiCare, Center for Healthy Living, MS: 409-2-MCHL, 409 South J Street, Tacoma WA 98415-0299.