Musician Richard Malvin Slater, 87, of Norristown, died Nov. 25 of a heart attack at home.

A 1940 graduate of Norristown High School, Mr. Slater studied music privately and began his career as a drummer before enlisting in the Navy during World War II.

Upon completing basic training at Great Lakes Naval Air Base in Illinois, he served as a musician first-class in Kodiak, Alaska, and at the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he was a drummer for the Cloudbusters, one of the all-black Battleship Bands, a program established by Eleanor Roosevelt.

The bands were assigned to naval bases, aircraft carriers, troop transport ships, and battleships. They played at dances on the naval bases and during daily physical drills and flag ceremonies. The Cloudbusters band was featured in Ken Burns' PBS documentary Jazz.

Mr. Slater was honorably discharged in 1946. He learned theory and composition at the Hamilton School of Music in Philadelphia.

Mr. Slater met Jane Elizabeth Temple at the school, where she taught piano, and they married in 1953. She died in 2002.

Mr. Slater was a member of the Norristown Musicians Association. For many years, he gave private lessons and taught drums at Bishop Kenrick High School in Norristown.

Mr. Slater was a member of the Verdi Band, the Norristown Band, the Valley Forge Pops, the Valley Forge Philharmonic Orchestra, and various jazz ensembles. He wrote and arranged "How Would You Like to Have Santa Claus for Your Grandpa?" and "The Little Green Elf," both from "The Richard Slater Song Book."

For 20 years starting in the 1960s, Mr. Slater was a paid recreation and music therapist at Norristown State Hospital, where he was known as "Ol' Dad."

Mr. Slater is survived by sons Richard and James; two grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

A life celebration will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 22 at Mount Zion A.M.E. Church, 1312 Willow St., Norristown, Pa. 19401. Friends may call at 5 p.m. Memorial donations may be made to the church.

Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.