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Rick Nelson Eulogized as Humorous and Sensitive

January 07, 1986|CAROL McGRAW | Times Staff Writer

Rick Nelson, the boy-next-door who grew up on his family's television show and became a teen-age rock 'n' roll idol, was eulogized Monday as a humorous but sensitive artist.

Nelson, 45, his fiance, Helen Blair, 27, and five band members were killed in the New Year's Eve crash of a DC-3 in northeast Texas.

The famed younger son of the late bandleader-actor Ozzie Nelson and former band singer-actress Harriet Hilliard, and his brother, David, virtually grew up before the millions who watched the popular TV series "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," which chronicled the typically all-American lives of the family.

The memorial service at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills, just minutes from the studio where the show was produced, was as low key and traditional as the Nelson family was portrayed to be on the series, which ran from 1952 until 1966.

About 250 family members and friends packed the picturesque, white-spired Church of the Hills while another 700 fans, many weeping into handkerchiefs and holding carnations, stood quietly outside.

Nelson's mother, Harriet, 71, who has lived in Laguna Beach since the death of her husband in 1975, was escorted by her surviving son, a producer.

The late singer's daughter, actress Tracy Nelson, 22, characterized her father as a "quiet and honorable man. . . ."

She brought laughter to the somber crowd when she added, "The man had class. He loved ice cream."

Nelson's 11-year-old son, Sam, read from an American Indian poem.

It was also a musical tribute. The Jordanaires, a Memphis group that provided backup vocals on many of Nelson's hits, sang "Peace in the Valley."

But it was Nelson's 18-year-old sons, Matthew and Gunnar, who brought tears to the crowd with their rendition of one of their father's favorite songs, "It's Easy to be Free."

David Nelson read a message from President and Mrs. Reagan expressing their condolences. "May peace ease your sorrow," the note concluded.

Before leading the mourners in the Lord's Prayer, David, 49, recalled that when he and Rick were youngsters, their father would play hide and seek with them at bedtime, then kneel between their beds while they all sang the Lord's Prayer.

Among those attending the services were well-known figures from the music and entertainment world, including actor Don DeFore, who played the next-door neighbor, Thorny, on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet"; Skip Young, who played Rick's best friend, Wally, and Col. Tom Parker, who was a close friend of Nelson and manager of the late Elvis Presley. Nelson's ashes will be inurned at the Hollywood Hills cemetery. His family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Ozzie Nelson Cancer Fund at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.

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