Harold Wakeman Payne

Harold Wakeman Payne

August 27, 1930 – October 11, 2022

Harold Wakeman Payne’s 92 years of earthly life were transformed on October 11, 2022. He died of natural causes in his Omaha home, surrounded by his wife, Shirley (Brittin) Payne and their two children, Leslee (Payne) O’Bradovich and Kirk Fuhr Payne. As musical notes suspend sound, his life continues within the numerous people who have known his influence.

Born at home on August 27, 1930, in Hastings, NE, to George Elmer and Inez Catherine (Wakeman) Payne, “Harry” was a twin to Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Hart Payne. They were the youngest of eight children and lived at tiny, three bedroom “315” N. Lexington Ave. Their parents had earlier relocated their family from the Sand Hills, near North Platte, to ensure that their children received fine education. All the children attended Hastings College. Many of them went on to further their education elsewhere.

As well as prioritizing education, the Paynes shared a strong Christian faith and a love of sacred and classical music, which they enjoyed around their piano. They welcomed extended family, students, and strangers into their home.

Harry demonstrated exceptional musical talent at a young age, studying violin and piano. As a teenager, he began playing the pipe organ at First Presbyterian Church in Hastings, while his father cared for the facility.

He earned a BA in Music at Hastings College, an MA in Music-Piano at the University of Southern California and completed additional graduate work at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He was a college music professor for nearly 40 years. This included time teaching at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, and nearly 30 years at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he retired.

Harry was also a minister of music, serving as the organist for congregations wherever he resided. As a hymnologist, he inspired a love for hymns both ancient and current, and deeply valued the American Hymn Society. His final position was serving Omaha’s Benson Presbyterian Church for 42 years, before retiring at age 80. He had helped to lead the designing and procurement of the magnificent Casavant pipe organs at the church and at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Believing strongly in justice and democracy, Harry supported many progressive candidates and causes through the years. From its beginning, he especially admired the Southern Poverty Law Center and its work to combat racism.

In high school, Harry met Shirley Brittin through regional music and church activities. The shy music majors admired one another from afar and began courting late in college. In 1954, they were married in Shirley’s First Presbyterian Church in Wood River, NE. They were passionate music educators: Harry at the collegiate level, and Shirley as an elementary school music teacher. Their marriage of 68 years was celebrated last July 23. They enjoyed living in unique homes and traveling… camping, visiting other countries, and sharing trips with their family.

Harry is survived by his wife, Shirley of Omaha; daughter, Leslee (Mike) O’Bradovich of Omaha; son, Kirk (Katherine Jo) Payne of Rochester, MN; grandchildren: Calla (Payne) Hyman of Goleta, CA, Hilary Payne ( Jake Wachowiak) of Rochester, MN, Kira O’Bradovich ( Mario Valdivieso) of Chicago, Ill, Libby (Andy) Drish of Rochester, MN, Nicholas (Paige) O’Bradovich of Omaha, and Hannah Payne (fiancé Hugh Fleming) of Anchorage, AK; 3 great-grandchildren with two more on the way; twin brother, Jerry (Pat) Payne of Erie, Colorado; sister-in-law, Darlene Payne of Hastings, NE; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Harry was preceded in death by his parents; brothers: Willard, Don, Hubert; sisters: Miriam Walstad, Margaret Bruhn, and Lois Myers.

The family thanks the Pacific Springs Village staff for the loving community they work to create, and especially for the care they have provided Harry these past three years in Assisted Living.

Harry’s legacy of kindness, humility and music will live on in his family, friends, and in the many lives he touched as an educator, accompanist, musician, and genuine human being throughout his life. He will be dearly missed in our world.

A celebration of Harry’s life will be held at Presbyterian Church of the Cross, 1517 South 114th Street, Omaha, NE, Friday, October 28, 2022, 11:00 AM followed by a luncheon at the church. Harry’s cremains will be interred at the Wood River Cemetery later. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the Hymn Society, the American Guild of Organists, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or to a charity of choice.


  • Marlene Sedlacek Posted October 23, 2022 10:47 am

    I am deeply sorry for the loss of your beloved husband and father. Please know that I am sending my heartfelt thoughts of sympathy to you all.

  • Joan Payne Posted October 23, 2022 11:45 am

    With deepest sorrow in Harry’s passin and in awe of his life’s accomplishments.

  • Helyn Ludvik [McDermott] and George Ludvik Posted October 23, 2022 3:56 pm

    What a blessing to have known such a talented and spiritual man. His wife is very special and I knew Shirley back in Wood River in our school as a .talented violinist . I am so grateful to have known Harry and Shirley.

    • HELYN LUDVIK Posted November 26, 2022 10:15 am

      Hi Helen, Thank you for your kind thoughts! So nice to hear from you, I am wondering where you are living? Again, thank you for your condolences.

  • Shirlylou Payne, Posted October 23, 2022 8:45 pm

    For the many fond moments with Harry, I am grateful. I pray peace, comfort, and joy in Jesus to my family & his many friends.

  • Monica Alba Yankus and Michael C. Yankus Posted October 24, 2022 3:06 pm

    So much laughter and memories of Harry and Shirley over the years. We are very blessed to have known Harry and will remember him fondly and with great love. May you all find peace and comfort in the many memories you all have.

  • Rose Ann Fennesy Posted October 24, 2022 4:03 pm

    Mr.Payne was my piano teacher at UNO. What a kind and wonderful & encouraging teacher he was. I was lucky to have studied with him.

  • Becky Augustus Posted October 24, 2022 9:24 pm

    Sending heartfelt condolences to all of you, Aunt Shirley and family. Uncle Harry has been a very important part of my life and he will be fondly remembered and missed.

  • Bonnie Guthrie Posted October 27, 2022 7:07 pm

    To the Payne family
    – my deepest sympathy for he loss of Harold. I graduated with Harry and Jerry You are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Bonnie JONES Guthrie.

  • Michael Broderick Posted October 28, 2022 6:26 am

    Harold Payne was my favorite professor in college and one of my favorite people ever. He was an inspiration.
    My thoughts are with Shirley and the whole family.

  • Pete and Betsy Payne Posted October 28, 2022 8:55 am

    Our dear and kind Uncle will be greatly missed. We are so grateful for the legacy of his love of music for the Church and for his love of family. Praying for Aunt Shirley and all of the family.

  • Rev. MaryAnn Calta Posted October 28, 2022 9:35 pm

    HARRY – My dear, brilliant, soulful saint whom I was blessed to minister beside. Tears of missing you AND GRATITUDE to God for your amazing life. Much love – maryann

  • Diane and Osa Posted October 29, 2022 11:38 am

    To the family of Harry Payne,
    May the sweet sound of a old familiar hymn/melody comfort and hold you as you release him in peace. May he always continue to live in your hearts,
    Much love sent,
    The Hendricks on 59th Street

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