Stanley H. Barer of Seattle and Ketchum passed away peacefully in his Seattle home on Dec. 13, 2021, following a decade-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was an extraordinary attorney, entrepreneur and philanthropist who profoundly impacted civil rights, politics, international trade and education--a true witness and participant in shaping our collective history. He was dedicated to his family and friends as a loving husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother, son and friend.
Stan was born Aug. 22, 1939, in Walla Walla, Washington, to David and Dorothy Barer, who’d immigrated to this country from Ukraine and England, respectively, and made their life in the scrap metal business. The middle child and the first of his family to graduate from college, Stan knew from an early age that education was the key to his future success in America. His father encouraged him to get enough education to employ himself as major employers did not hire Jewish people at that time, which seeded his lifelong commitment to equity, inclusion and prosperity for all, and the rule of law.
After graduating from Walla Walla High, Stan earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Washington. He did well enough academically to be hired by U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson, whom he worked for in Washington, D.C., as legal counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, which Sen. Magnuson chaired. In D.C., Stan, a victim of bigotry, antisemitism and discrimination growing up, had the great honor to serve as the U.S. Senate lawyer for the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, helping to write the landmark legislation. From 1965-1967, he served as the assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle, before returning to D.C. to serve as Magnuson’s chief of staff. In 1972, Barer served as legal counsel for the U.S. delegation to the first United Nations Conference on the Environment at Stockholm, Sweden.
In 1974, he left D.C. and returned to Seattle, with the love of his life, Alta Barer, and joined the Garvey Schubert Barer law firm. It was then that he began what would become the focus of his long professional career: rebuilding U.S.-China trade relations, including the watershed 1979 legal opinion that reopened direct shipping and aviation between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China for the first time since 1950.
While a significant change to international law, it also embodied one of Stan’s core beliefs: The world we live in is filled with shared values and that civility can lead to greater understanding. He believed in the importance of finding commonalities in the face of vastly differing cultures of our global community. “China is different from the U.S. Most nations are different from the U.S. But the point remains: What do you have in common, rather than what divides you?,” he often said.
Eventually, his law firm represented China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), handling its entry into the United States. In 1982, he co-founded Saltchuk Resources, a family of transportation and distribution companies that had acquired more than 30 entities across air cargo, marine services, energy distribution, domestic shipping, international shipping and logistics. He served as chairman of Saltchuk until 1994 and was named chairman emeritus in 2001.
In 2010, Stan and Alta co-founded the Barer Institute for Law & Global Human Services at the UW School of Law. The Barer Institute focuses on the multidisciplinary role of law in promoting improved outcomes in health, education and economic development and the rule of law in developing countries and countries in political transition. The goal of the institute is to identify and mentor emerging lawyer-leaders who will be at the forefront of developing and implementing innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. The students have represented countries throughout Africa and South America, as well as Mongolia, China and Cuba. The institute was the crowning achievement of Stan’s 50-year dedication to his alma mater—a significant portion of his life marked by a close relationship with the UW, from his higher education to serving as a regent from 2004 to 2012 and as a member of the UW Foundation Board. He held volunteer roles with UW Law, UW Medicine and the Burke Museum as well. Stan’s unyielding belief was that access to education was the very structure of human empathy, and that through learning, teaching and conversation, a common language could be found.
A staunch Democrat, Stan was an American first, advising presidents on matters of international trade regardless of party affiliation, from Johnson through Obama. Active in political fundraising, Stan and Alta hosted several such events in the Barer family home. They hosted Hillary Clinton as first lady and then again as a candidate for the U.S. presidency and held several events for former U.S. Sen., Secretary of State and presidential candidate John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Over his career, Stan earned global recognition for his achievements, including the 2021 Gates Volunteer Service Award, presented to individuals whose philanthropy and service have taken the UW to new heights . In 2011 and again in 2018, Stan was honored in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in furthering relations between China and the United States. The award was given by the Western Returned Scholars Association Entrepreneur Alliance with several hundred Chinese officials in attendance. In 1996, he was honored with the National Admiral of the Ocean Seas Award, the most prestigious transportation award in the U.S.
Stan's passion for international trade led him to co-found the Washington State China Relations Council and work on the Washington Council on International Trade and Development. He was chairman of the Subcommittee on Maritime and Aviation Law of the National Council for U.S./China trade and a board member of the China General Aviation Development Association.
He was the founding co-chair of the joint U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, which developed an eight-point recommendation in May 2009 to the two nations' governments for the establishment of a joint clean energy research program. That led to the landmark agreement announced several months later by President Hu and President Obama in 2009 to establish the joint Clean Energy Research Center (CERC).
Beyond his public and professional accomplishments, Stan never met a fish he didn’t want to catch. He grew up trout fishing each summer at Loon Lake, Washington, with his family, eventually turning his hobby into his passion. He loved nothing more than traveling around the world with Alta and friends, looking for that perfect place to cast his line. He was a voracious reader and a devoted fan of the Huskies, Seahawks and his beloved Seattle SuperSonics. His work with China also fostered a great love and respect for Chinese culture, and his travels to the Far East were some of his fondest memories. Stan was possessed with unique curiosity, always looking for both adventure and debate, able to have a conversation with anyone and able to make the person he was speaking with feel like the most important person in the world. A great listener and an old-school orator, Stan had a tremendous sense of humor that often skewed toward the mischievous--when he laughed, he did so with his whole body. He was a true patriarch for his extended family, a man of wisdom and grace, whose loyalty never wavered.
Stanley H. Barer was preceded in death by his wife, Alta, his son, Aaron Sr., and his sister, Janice (Barer) Curran. He is survived by his daughter, Leigh K. Barer, and her husband, Jonathan W. Fitzgerald; his grandsons, Aaron Jr., Julian and Roman Barer and Ethan Hunt; his brother, Burl Barer; and a large extended family of nieces, nephews and cousins.
The family held a private funeral and will host a memorial service for Stan’s many friends and family in the near future. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to UW Law School or Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.