Wayne Lee - December 05, 2010
Wayne C. Lee was born to David and Rosa Lee on the family farm four miles south of Lamar in Chase County, Neb. Wayne died Dec. 5, 2010 at Imperial Manor in Imperial, Neb. at the age of 93.
David and Rosa were pioneers, their families having settled in Chase County in the 1880s, but Wayne was born after they had moved from their soddy into a cement house. He attended a one-room school across the road from the gravesite where he was buried.
Wayne boarded in Imperial for high school, where he excelled in his class work, as well as becoming captain of the track team in his senior year and setting a record in the mile. He was also challenged in the last weeks of school to begin writing and this became his lifelong passion.
He graduated in 1935 and dreamed of attending the University of Nebraska. Twice, he was packed and ready to leave when his aging father’s medical issues kept him on the farm. He did manage to finish four semesters of English classes by correspondence but was never able to attend college.
In the late ‘30s, he formed his first band and began writing and arranging music. He played the trumpet and sang, but his real gift was organization. Over the years (right up into his 80s) he formed bands, vocal quartets and choral groups, usually arranging all the music for the instruments and sometimes for voice. He wrote over 400 songs and his bands sometimes performed them.
He was grounded on the farm for most of WWII, entering the Army in 1945, only to be sent back to the farm when his father had a medical emergency. In 1948, he married Pearl May Sheldon and she moved to the Lee farm. W. Sheldon (Shelley) was born in 1950 and Charles Lester was born in 1952.
Wayne became the rural mail carrier for the Lamar Post Office in 1951 and served for over 30 years. Leaving most of the farm work to his brother Robert, Wayne was able to work on his writing from about 5-11:30 a.m. when he had to leave to sort the mail.
After nearly 15 years of steady writing and countless rejection slips, he finally sold a short story in the late ‘40s. In the 50s, his Western books began to sell and he found markets for his religious short stories, selling over 700 in the course of his career.
Wayne was always active in the Christian Church in Lamar and served as an elder there for much of his adult life. He considered his religious writing part of his calling as “a preacher with a pen.” But no matter what he wrote, he wanted it to be something he could read to his children with pride and integrity.
Wayne’s writing career led to an active role with the Western Writers of America, where he served in every position, including president. His research for books soon led to respect for his grasp of western history and he was on the board of the Nebraska State Historical Society for many years.
Locally, he was actively involved in seeing the museum in Champion, Neb. established. His novels were always grounded in accurate historical and geographical settings, but in his later years he published several books of history.
After retiring from the Post Office, he became a teacher for over 20 years in the Writer’s Digest correspondence school. He had taught college-level creative writing and had been a featured speaker at conferences around the country, so this enabled him to pass on his skills and help others.
All through his married life, Wayne traveled with his family. While the boys were at home, they visited every state except Hawaii and crossed Mexico and Canada. He and Pearl traveled the world, especially enjoying the Holy Land and Australia. They wintered in Harlingen, Texas for 17 years, enjoying the friendship of many other seniors and founding two choral groups.
On New Year’s Day, 2000, Wayne was hospitalized from a stroke that started a decline in his health. The most immediate result was that he was never able to write so much as a paragraph ever again. He had finished his last book (number 57) just the day before. However, he forgot that day and always believed it had never been completed—it has never been published.
Pearl died Oct. 4, 2004, and Wayne’s health was so poor by then that he could not stay at home, even with the help Charley and his wife provided.
Wayne was preceded in death by his two brothers, Will and Robert; his sister, Nellie; and his wife.
He is survived by his two sons and their wives, Sheldon and Sally Lee of Sinking Spring, Pa. and Charles and Mary Lee of Lamar, Neb.; six grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held Dec. 9 at the Berean Fundamental Church in Imperial, with Pastor Harwerth and Rev. Francis Baker officiating.
Military rites were by VFW Post #4688, Imperial, Neb. Interment was at Green Lawn Cemetery in Lamar, Neb.
Liewer Funeral Home in Imperial was in charge of arrangements.