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Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

"The Doorman" tipped cap to all entering his life

Seattle Times staff reporter

With a pocket full of Frangos and a tip of his green cap, William "The Doorman" Stine greeted celebrities and transients alike at the doors of the downtown Seattle Frederick & Nelson.

His smile, and a flawless memory for customers' names, became an icon for Seattle's homegrown retailer. And when Frederick & Nelson closed for good in 1992, it was Mr. Stine who locked the doors for the last time.

But just as the closure left a hole in Seattle's downtown scene, it left a void in Mr. Stine's life. His green gabardine doorman suit still hangs in his closet, and until a year ago, he talked about finding a new job working with people.

Mr. Stine died at home in Seattle on Sunday night, after an extended battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 81.

For Mr. Stine, no other job could have been as satisfying as the years he spent as William the Doorman, said his daughter, Carol Stine, of Seattle.

He came to Frederick & Nelson in the mid-1980s, after retiring from a long career selling business forms. As a young man, he had turned down baseball and basketball scholarships from the University of Washington to enlist in the Army, and he survived D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

Mr. Stine, born March 1, 1924, married his wife, Donna, in 1947, and they raised two children in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle, where he used his athletic abilities to lead neighborhood baseball games. He filled in a backyard fire pit with concrete so he could host half-court basketball games, much to his wife's chagrin.

Retirement left him restless, so he went looking for a job as the Frederick & Nelson Santa Claus. The store offered him the doorman job instead.

He quickly took to the job, befriending customers and a blind accordion player who worked the corner of 5th Avenue and Pine Street. He opened the store's doors for luminaries including Bob Hope, a Miss America and Sonics legend "Downtown" Fred Brown.

"He just loved it down there," his daughter said. "He loved the funny ladies who came in to shop."

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Frederick & Nelson eventually used Mr. Stine's smiling face and tipped cap in its newspaper and TV ads to cultivate its image of superior customer service. It even sold a souvenir doorstop crafted in his likeness.

"He knew hundreds and hundreds of the customers by name. It was always Mr. or Mrs.," said Bill Doell, of Seattle, who worked at the downtown store for 30 years. "He was the perfect person for the job."

After the store closed, Mr. Stine worked a series of unsatisfying jobs as a grocery-store demonstrator and selling pet food, said his daughter. Then Nordstrom bought and remodeled the Frederick Nelson building and invited Mr. Stine to return to the doorman's post, opening the same door he had locked six years earlier.

It lasted one day. "It wasn't the same for him," his daughter said. "He was loyal to Frederick & Nelson."

Mr. Stine's wife of 54 years died in 2001. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a year later. The disease stole his two hobbies — painting and golf — and it embarrassed him to go out in public.

But it didn't stop him from going through his scrapbook of articles and memorabilia from his years at the front door of Frederick & Nelson, as recently as June.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his son, Doug, of Tacoma, and a sister, Bea Quist, of Peoria, Ariz.

No service is planned. Donations may be made on behalf of William Stine to the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation, P.O. Box 56, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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