Ozzie Nelson was the former bandleader who with his singer-wife, Harriet, and their two sons became a radio and television fixture for more than two decades.
At Rutgers University, Nelson was an honor student and champion quarterback. After graduation, he studied for his law degree — which he received from Rutgers in 1930. But the Depression prompted him to form an orchestra for a livelihood. Before long, with sax and megaphone, he and the band were playing in hotels and ballrooms around the country.
The Ozzie Nelson Band became more popular with the addition of a Des Moines singer named Harriet Hilliard.
In 1933, they began performing on a radio series, "The Baker's Broadcast, hosted by comedian Joe Penner, and later by "Believe It or Not" man Robert Ripley before joining Red Skelton's show in 1941.
Hilliard made several films after being seen with the band at the Cocoanut Grove. Nelson kept touring the music circuit but finally in 1944 they were able to work steadily together again in "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" on radio.
The show was a phenomenon, enduring 10 seasons on radio and 14 on television, with two years overlapping and a 1952 movie, "Here Come the Nelsons." Ozzie became the producer and director as well as playing the nice-guy dad whose profession was never made quite clear to viewers.
He later directed other TV series episodes and appeared in a 1968 film, "The Impossible Years." He and his wife toured in several plays.
Their family television series came to an end in 1966, with sons Ricky and David grown and married.
In 1972, the Nelson parents returned to television briefly with a network show, "Ozzie's Girls."