Update, Job done......some thoughts.
I wanted to thank everyone who posted in this tread with suggestions. I very much appreciate them.
I have some thoughts on the job after having finished it this past weekend. I have been turning wrenches for over 20 yrs now, both professionally for ahile (not anymore) and on my cars and equipment.
1) this job is a PITA as far as water pump jobs go. I ended up having to remove the a/c compressor, a/c compressor bracket, motor mount and drop the motor about 3" to get the pump back in without messing up the gasket and small amount of blue RTV I put on the o-ring. I have a vehicle lift in my shop and I still ended up on the ground when I had to let the motor down with a floor jack!
2) If i had this to do over again, I'd opt for a motorcraft water pump eventhough it's twice the cost. The NAPA "new" replacement is OK and is not leaking, but the hub where the fan mounts is different and the water pump pulley fit on very tight. The pump itself also did not seem to fit the cavity in the housing as snugly as the OEM pump did. Again, it's not a HUGE difference, but I noticed it so I wanted to make mention of it.
3) my original 12 yr old pump was not leaking, but I had a gasket failure (the rubber o-ring failed). I speculate this may have had something to do with the major front end collision my grandpa had with the car when it was about 2 or so yrs old, but I could never prove that fact. Sometimes these things can take years to show up and I suspect the big jolt may have slightly hurt that gasket and it just took a long time to show up as based on the condition of the bottom of the pump, it had been leaking to some degree or another for a long time now.
Although a PITA, it's a job well worth tackling as I can see how shops would want $600.00 to do this job (parts and labor). I also flushed my cooling system while I was at it.
I did replace the gasket on the stock thermostat, but not the thermostat itself as Napa did not have one in stock and the stock one has a check valve in it, I don't think some of the aftermarket ones do. I also put a slight amount of blue RTV on the gasket for the thermostat as well, then let the car sit overnight (about 24 hrs give or take) before i put any water back into the system and ran the car.
So far so good, no leaks.
Thanks again guys.