R. Wayne Nelson enjoyed music, the fine arts, and just generally enjoyed life, friends and family members said Wednesday.
"He was one tremendous guy. I had the honor of having him as a friend," Lawrence resident John Ames said.
Nelson, 93, a music teacher who also became the director of fine arts in the Lawrence public schools, died Wednesday at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
"He remarked before he died what a wonderful, full life he'd had and how blessed he was to have so many friends and his family around," Nelson's daughter, Kay Nelson Davis, of Lawrence, said.
Nelson taught music in western Kansas before moving to Lawrence in 1949 where he taught band and vocal music until 1965. He then served as fine arts director until he retired in 1976.
Among Nelson's many accomplishments was establishing a choral music program and pushing for excellence in fine arts, said Lew Tilford, who also was choral director at LHS from 1970 to 1987 and then director of cultural fine arts for the district.
"He was always one who thoroughly understood the importance of arts education for students and how valuable it was to them," Tilford said. "I think he had a tremendous impact on programs in Lawrence in the arts and in setting high standards of excellence. He laid the groundwork and set the foundation for a tradition to be carried on."
Ames recalled how Nelson's music shows always brought large crowds. Nelson also wrote songs and played in a five-piece combo band. One of his bandmates was Clyde Bysom, of Lawrence.
Bysom noted that Nelson, even in his later years, still would go to local assisted living and nursing homes and perform.
"He was just a pleasure to be around," Bysom said.
In February 2002, friends, family and former students threw a party for Nelson's 90th birthday. During the party, Nelson gave a short piano performance.
A private graveside service for Nelson will be held Friday. The family will hold a celebration of his life from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Adams Alumni Center on the Kansas University campus.