History likely won’t remember Stan Selden as “Mr. Tacoma,” because that nickname belongs to another civic champion from the same generation. But in the wake of Selden’s death this month at age 84, a posthumous title seems fitting.
Selden was a captain of industry, the second-generation CEO of Selden’s Home Furnishings. He ran the successful business for three decades, in addition to his regional leadership on the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.
He also could’ve been honorary captain of the waterfront, a Coast Guard veteran and yacht skipper who helped introduce kids to his passion through the Youth Maritime Foundation. Selden was a driving force behind building a public seaplane float at the mouth of the Foss Waterway in 2013 and ringleader of the Tacoma Tall Ships Festival in 2005 and its encore in 2008.
It was the Tall Ships event, which drew more than a million visitors to the waterfront during its two runs, that stands as Selden’s greatest feat, as unrivaled in majesty and ambition as a three-masted sailing barque. Before he died, he had his eye on the horizon, excited about a local Festival of Sail planned for 2017.
Selden’s death on July 3 registered as the second big loss for Tacoma in less than six weeks. It followed the passing of a kindred local dynamo — another larger-than-life man named Stan who also happens to be the aforementioned “Mr. Tacoma.” Stan Naccarato, who died May 25 at age 88, was renowned for saving minor-league baseball in the city he loved, and he didn’t stop there.
Naccarato and Selden had quite a lot in common beyond a first name. Both were born and died in Tacoma, products of the Great Depression era. Both oozed optimism and energy. Both were masters at shaking hands and working the phones to convert skeptics to help invigorate downtown —Naccarato pushing to get the Tacoma Dome built, Selden wooing foreign and domestic ships to come here (and convincing local businesses to swallow some debt after the festivals ended).
Both have children who are carrying on the family legacies of South Sound community involvement.
While some people went wobbly on Tacoma’s shining potential through the decades, the city’s outstanding pair of Stans never did. Naccarato said this about his beloved hometown in a 2005 interview: “I will sell it to anybody, and I always will.”
It’s a pledge that would have prompted Selden to say “amen.”