12 Aug 1927 – 9 Oct 2020
On Friday evening, October 9, Wendell Nutt, loving husband and father to five sons, passed away in Huntsville, AL. He was 93.
Dad was born on August 12, 1927 in Amarillo, TX to Glenn and Adele Nutt, where he grew up with his older brother, Ray. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1946 after a year of service. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Texas Tech University in 1949, paying his own way through the last three years of college by playing saxophone in dance bands on Friday and Saturday nights. After college, he worked at Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for four years before joining AT&T Bell Laboratories. He worked for Bell Labs for the next 37 years, first in New Jersey, then in Maryland, and finally in Georgia. On January 28th,1949, he married Bernadean Priebe, and together they raised five sons - David, Steven, Jerry, Brian, and Donald.
Dad was proud of his long career as an engineer at Bell Labs, where his co-workers referred to him as “the problem solver” because of his ability to tackle stubborn problems, typically by intense and sustained concentration in our living room, late at night. He loved music, particularly barbershop quartet singing, as well as musical plays, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and Sousa marches. He played the piano and clarinet, and he made sure all of us learned to play musical instruments as we grew up. He was a do-it-your-selfer who built and fixed countless objects in his continuous effort to provide for his family the best he could. And he did. He loved his family, he loved his work, and he loved his country. He was most proud of his family, and he tried extremely hard to support us, to sustain us, and to keep us all together.
Dad was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Bernie, his older brother Ray, and by his mother and father, Adele and Glenn. He is survived by his five children, 12 grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.
Dad was an old-school DIY-er. Part of that trait stemmed from being an engineer, and part of it from growing up in modest circumstances in west Texas. When the living room rug needed cleaning (probably from messes left by rug rats), he had a novel solution - haul the rug to the roof of the house, spray it down with a garden hose, then drying in the sun. When the motorboat had to be stored for winter, he sank eye bolts into the garage rafters, installed pulleys on the rafters and wall studs, and hoisted the boat to the ceiling. The hood of the station wagon fit (barely) under the boat until summer came around. But before the boat made it back to water, the motor had to be tested, just to be sure it would run after spending the winter in the garage. Testing was a backyard job, with boat on trailer, behind the basketball hoop (which Dad also made and installed). After submerging the end of the motor in a garbage can full of water, motor testing began. His methods were not always conventional, but his motivation was clear – the boat had to run for the family vacation, and family lake vacations required a working boat. Family members remember the annual lake vacations, whether in upstate NY, western MD, or upstate GA. Modest vacations for a large family, remembered with fondness and appreciated.
Dad loved music, and his favorite genres were barbershop singing, musical plays, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and Sousa marches. He imparted his love of music to his children, starting at an early age. When it was bedtime for us kids, he would herd us upstairs with a promise to play a record for us after the lights were turned out. Our most frequent request was The Music Man, which was one of Dad’s favorites, also. He loved the songs, and the musical was a slice of Americana set in the Midwest, where he, too, had grown up learning to play an instrument, the clarinet. Dad practiced hard, an approach that served him well throughout his life. He played for his high school band and went on to play clarinet in the college band at Texas Tech. It was there that he met Mom, who also played clarinet. Compensation in performance music is usually modest, but in Dad’s case, he was richly rewarded, for that’s how he met his wife and lifelong love.
A lifelong student of music, Dad imparted his appreciation of music to all of us, enrolling us first in piano lessons, then allowing us to learn to play an instrument of our choice. For him, it was important to provide the kind of musical experience and joy that he had experienced when growing up. He taught us to appreciate music, but also the discipline required to practice and master a skill, and the myriad life lessons associated with doing so - teamwork, harmony, meeting obligations and expectations, rewards commensurate with invested effort, and commitment to excellence.
His sons were fortunate to visit him in the weeks before he passed. Though he had lost most of his strength, and responded mostly with one-word replies, when we would announce that our visit was over and we were about to leave, he always said “Thank you for coming.” We would ask him what music he would like us to play in the CD player before we left. His choice, most often, was “The Music Man,” the same music that he played for us when he put us to bed as little kids.
There will be a graveside service at 2:00 in the afternoon on Friday, October 16th at Sawnee View Memorial Gardens in Cumming GA.
Condolences may be expressed at www.mcdonaldandson.com.
Arrangements by McDonald and Son Funeral Home, 150 Sawnee Drive, Cumming, GA 30040 (770) 886.9899
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