Maurice Shaw grew up poor in Penngrove and survived the sinking of his ship during World War II to launch a North Coast insurance company that is thriving under his sons today.

Despite his good fortune, Shaw never forgot his roots.

He gave money to working mothers, bought a car for a struggling neighbor and kept a stack of $100 grocery store gift certificates that he passed out.

"Anybody who needed anything, he was right there to help," said son Pat Shaw of Eureka. "It just made him feel good."

Shaw died Monday of a heart ailment at a Santa Rosa care home. He was 90.

Red, as he was known to friends, was born in 1922 and raised mostly by his mother in a dirt-floor shack near Crane Canyon. His father was away in the merchant marines.

He graduated from Santa Rosa High School and joined the <NO1><NO>Navy in February 1941.

Shaw was a navigator on the USS Northhampton, a heavy cruiser that saw action at Wake Island, the battle of Midway and Guadalcanal.

In November 1942 the Northhampton sunk after it was hit by two Japanese torpedoes in the Battle of Tassafaronga.

Shaw was in the water for more than 12 hours before he was rescued, his son said. He fought off sharks and gunfire from Japanese sailors.

<NO1>He suffered a collapsed lung but persuaded the Navy to let him stay in six more years.

<NO>While on leave in San Francisco, he met his wife, the former Lavelle Robberding. The couple was married in 1946. They had two sons. She had a daughter from another marriage. His wife died in 2004.

They lived in San Mateo and Santa Rosa before moving to Eureka in 1957.

Shaw co-founded Shaw and Peterson Insurance Co. in Eureka in 1963. He took control of the business in 1966 and handed it over to his two sons in 1984.

<NO1>It has since undergone a major expansion, acquiring a dozen other agencies, said his son.

<NO>Shaw and his wife moved to Santa Rosa when he retired. He was a fixture at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds' off-track betting parlor and spoke of his war experience at Montgomery High. He moved to the assisted living center six months ago.

In addition to his son Pat, he is survived by son Randy of Eureka and step-daughter Terri Rosatelli of Ukiah. He is survived by brother Dana Shaw of San Mateo and six grandchildren.

A memorial is 11 a.m. Saturday at Parent-Sorensen mortuary in Petaluma.

— Paul Payne