He loved the seed business, his daughter said, an outlook that spilled over to philanthropy, at home and abroad.
Jim Massie, 92, president of Northrup-King and Co. seed business, one of the largest and oldest companies in Minnesota, died March 4 of natural causes at his home in Woodland.
He became president of Northrup-King in 1963 and helped take it from a privately to publicly held company before it was sold to Sandoz, an agricultural chemicals firm. Northrup-King was one the largest seed companies in the world.
"He saw the business as a grass-roots company," said his daughter, Lynn Massie Oehler, of Woodland, on Lake Minnetonka.
"The offices had glass walls so people could see each other and doors were always open."
Massie was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and grew up in Minneapolis, living much of his youth with his grandfather, CC Massie. The elder Massie, president of Northrup-King, hired his grandson to work in the company's trial growing grounds at 13. He graduated from the Blake School and Harvard University, and returned to the Twin Cities to work at Northrup-King in 1941.
He worked his way up to president and board chairman, gaining employee loyalty through his work ethic and engaging personality, his daughter said.
He knew everybody's first name, she said.
When visiting the company's divisions in Mexico, Massie gave employee speeches in Spanish.
He retired in 1980.
Northrup-King, based in Minneapolis, was started in the 1890s. The headquarters building in northeast Minneapolis is now a center for more than 100 artists.
"He always loved planting and growing things," said Massie Oehler. "He loved that aspect of the business."
Massie had a philanthropic spirit and worked to great effect with Rotary Club of Minneapolis No. 9. He joined in 1951 and was the second longest-term member in the club's 102 year history. He took pride in his perfect attendance record, no matter where his travels took him.
In 2006, he received the Marty Baskerville Philanthropy Award from the Minneapolis Rotary Foundation. He was recognized for his early and generous support of Minneapolis Rotary's PolioPlus Campaign for Rotary International. It is estimated that his gift paved the way for the global initiative to eradicate polio, saving the lives of thousands of children around the world, said Massie Oehler.
"He wanted to be helpful to anybody who needed help," she said. "He felt he was fortunate and had opportunities and wanted to give back to the community."
Massie was also involved with the YMCA, the Blake School, Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, the United Way, Third Northwestern Bank, and the US Feed Grains Council. His interests were not limited to the Twin Cities. He and his wife Chloe reached out to people from other cultures, hosting exchange students in their home from Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, and Japan.
He was a meticulous caretaker of his yard and garden, enjoyed boating, tennis, golf, and paddle tennis, was an avid hunter, fisherman, skier, and a lover of games of all types.
He was preceded in death by his wife. Besides his daughter, Massie is survived by a son, John, of Woodland.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. April 23 at Lakewood Chapel, 3600 Hennepin Avenue S., Minneapolis.
"He was a simple man who wasn't interested in showing off with fancy cars or fancy this or that," said his daughter. "He was a meat and potatoes guy. He was a high profile executive, but very low key."
David Chanen • 612-673-4465