Paul MacNaughton was a yoga instructor and student of Buddhism, but he also helped start a co-op school program for Everett kids.
A gifted musician, he played French horn with the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Opera, but had also worked with steamy soul-singing legend Barry White.
He was a devotee of meditation and mindfulness, but also of the Seattle Mariners and the Seahawks.
“I consider him to be a bit of a renaissance man, with his spiritual teaching, music and yoga,” said Diane Brooks, MacNaughton’s wife of 26 years. “I was his caretaker for three and a half years. He was the center of my life.”
MacNaughton, an Everett Community College yoga instructor for six years, died Dec. 16 at home in Everett, surrounded by family. His 68th birthday was his last day of life.
He is survived by Brooks, their 25-year-old son, Thomas “Tommy” MacNaughton, and his sister, Jeannie Vanvalkenburg.
In 2013, he and Brooks were featured in a Herald article. It described how MacNaughton kept teaching, despite the ravages of bone cancer, with his wife there to demonstrate yoga poses. Seated on a mobility scooter, he guided his students verbally. He gave gentle encouragement with precise instruction.
“Be kind to yourself,” he told his students.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006, and from it his bone cancer was believed to have metastasized. Despite grueling pain and tumors at the base of his spine and on a vertebra, he taught with his wife’s help until last spring quarter. In 2015, two titanium rods were placed in his spine.
They were co-teachers until Brooks took over classes last summer. She plans to carry on her husband’s legacy with a style he called “karuna” yoga. The Sanskrit word can be translated as compassion. “He focused on not pushing too hard,” Brooks said.
“I see him as being a radiant being,” Snohomish Mayor Karen Guzak said. A yoga teacher, Guzak offers classes at her Yoga Circle Studio in Snohomish. MacNaughton had taught meditation there. “It certainly is a hole in our hearts,” Guzak said. “His cancer was so severe, he didn’t want to continue on.”
MacNaughton made use of the Washington Death with Dignity Act. The law allows terminally ill adults to request a lethal dose of medication. A patient must have a doctor’s diagnosis of fewer than six months to live.
“He chose his birthday,” Brooks said. Her husband wanted his decision known “to normalize it, so other people can have the example, to see how beautiful this choice can be,” she said.
MacNaughton was helped at home by EvergreenHealth Hospice. Two volunteers from End of Life Washington, one a retired doctor, were there in his final hours. The organization worked in 2008 to pass Initiative 1000, which established the Death with Dignity Act. In 2015, life-ending medication was dispensed to 213 people in Washington, and 166 are known to have died from it, according to an annual report by the state Department of Health.
Born Paul McNutt on Dec. 16, 1948, MacNaughton changed his last name in adulthood. Brooks said his chosen surname is more faithful to the original Scottish. The change came when they were expecting their son.
A Seattle-area native, MacNaughton was a 1967 Inglemoor High School graduate. In 1971, he graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in music performance. He had previously played French horn in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra.
In 1975, he was hired by the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco opera. He had played with Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra during a Northwest tour. And in 1981, he played with Luciano Pavarotti at a San Francisco fundraising concert for earthquake survivors in Italy.
His music career was cut short when he developed focal dystonia, a neurological condition affecting muscles.
Brooks, 58, met her future husband in a spiritual study group in the Bay Area. They married in 1990 and moved here when Brooks began working as a Seattle Times reporter.
When their son was born in 1991, MacNaughton became a stay-home dad. He helped found the Everett district’s co-op school program, now the Lighthouse Cooperative housed at Jefferson Elementary School.
“Paul meant a great deal to me,” said Everett Community College student Satoshi Larsen, of Oak Harbor. Larsen, 38, twice took yoga at EvCC. He was there when Brooks assisted MacNaughton, who also taught yoga at Everett’s Sound Holistic Health.
“He wanted her to be able to continue teaching. Those were their students, not his students,” Larsen said.
One teaching challenge was keeping students off their cellphones. “Paul’s yoga class was an introduction to mindfulness, living in the present moment,” Brooks said.
“We were studying yoga together until his last days,” said Brooks, who plans to teach winter quarter at EvCC. “It’s a chance to plant some seeds, and spread Paul’s wisdom.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
A memorial service for Paul MacNaughton is scheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 12 at Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1607 Fourth St., Marysville.