Longtime Venice resident Melvyn Hayward, Sr., the former director of the Vera Davis McClendon Center, who was active in numerous other community organizations, has died. He was 59.

Hayward, who was involved in community service in Venice for 25 years, died Sunday, June 29th, at the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, his son Melvyn Hayward, Jr. said.

Hayward worked with various programs in Venice as part of his commitment to improve the community, according to his son. Among the community-based organizations he served with are the Venice Drug Coalition and the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center.

“He truly contributed to the Venice community’s happiness,” his son said. “He nourished the entire neighborhood and encouraged all to achieve success in their daily lives.”

Hayward had the “absolute belief that the kids of Venice were the future,” his son said. As someone who wanted to ensure that youths had the resources and support to achieve greatness, Hayward worked with youths at the old Venice library through a program he created, called the Homework Center.

Hayward helped provide creative outlets for children at the Pearl White Theater, where they were able to perform plays and be on stage. He also coached football, baseball and basketball at the Oakwood Recreation Center.

Hayward served as director of the Vera Davis McClendon Center when it first opened and he ran the center with the “utmost diligence,” his son said.

“He made the center a welcoming and inviting place, a home,” Hayward Jr. said. “He made sure that all of the non-profit agencies in the [Vera Davis Center] were able to promote their programs and offer positive resources for the neighborhood.”

Hayward Jr. said that his father shared his exuberance for life with people in the community and that he was a natural comedian who could make everyone laugh.

Hayward was someone who defended the rights of people who were treated unjustly and was an advocate and activist, his son noted.

A field trip enthusiast, Hayward organized trips to professional baseball games, summer water parks and overnight camping at the Vera Davis Center.

“He wanted to give as much as he could to the community of Venice, as much as a day would allow,” Hayward Jr. said.

Memorial services for Hayward are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Friday, July 11th, at the First Baptist Church, 685 Westminster Ave., Venice. Repast will immediately follow at the Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Family Center, 610 California Ave., Venice.

See Betsy Goldman’s column on page 13.