Lexington music store owner Donald Eugene Wilson, 92, who is credited with helping generations of area children get started in band and orchestra, died Thursday.
The sparks for his career were ignited during Mr. Wilson's childhood in St. Joseph, Mo., when his parents gave him a saxophone for his ninth birthday.
He went on to become a state champion drum major and baton twirler in high school, then performed with what is now Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville.
He toured the South with an Army band during World War II.
Mr. Wilson told Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen in 2011 that he played three parades a day and four dances a week during that time. He also was chosen to be trained to repair the band's instruments.
After the war, he ended up in Lexington, working as a repairman for Shackleton's music store.
From 1949 to 1955, he performed as a drum major with the University of Kentucky band, even though he wasn't a student. He was accompanied by his baton-twirling daughter, Donna, who learned to twirl when she was 7 and performed while riding on her father's shoulders.
"She stole the show," Wilson said. "I became known as the father of the little girl."
He opened Don Wilson Music Co. on Main Street in 1956, but the store, which is still operated by his family, has been on Southland Drive for years. The family also operates DW Sound.
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Band Director Jeff Hood said he first met Mr. Wilson 30 years ago while working with a high school band in Clark County.
"Mr. Wilson really had a big impact on me. Always a friendly face," Hood said.
He said Mr. Wilson let him borrow instruments and delay payment on instruments if needed when Hood was just starting out.
"He'd do whatever was needed for us," Hood said. "He wanted the kids to have the same experience in band that he did."
He said rural schools far from Lexington have long benefitted from Wilson's staff's weekly visits to pick up instruments that need repair.
The store also offers instrument rental, which allows students to try an instrument for a while before making a commitment to it.
Hood said Mr. Wilson helped "get a lot of kids started in band that otherwise probably couldn't afford it."
Mr. Wilson was married for 64 years to the late Mary Elizabeth Wilson, who died in 2005.
He is survived by children Donna Jo Switzer of Melbourne, Fla.; Gary E. Wilson of Lexington; Peggy Wilson of Lexington and Sally Mullis of Georgetown, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Looking back in 2011, Mr. Wilson said, "I've had a good life."
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home on Harrodsburg Road. Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the funeral home.
Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety