Lee was born and raised in San Luis, Colo., to Lee Payne Sr. and Refugio Bailon on May 18, 1927.
Lee served in the United States Army during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946. He went to college at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., on the GI bill. Lee married Juanita Maye Turner on Nov. 5, 1954. He was a teacher in the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Taos, N.M., and then Brigham City, Utah, until his retirement in Pagosa Springs in 1980.
He loved the outdoors. He was an avid fisherman, hunter and skier (charter member of the Grey Wolves Ski Club at Wolf Creek), and he was an artist. He spent many years as a woodcarver. Lee was a true renaissance man, educated and proficient in a wide range of fields. He was an educator of all those he came into contact with. There was never a project too challenging for Lee: from building a replica stagecoach for his children to creating a wood-fired hot tub out of a stock tank and a used hot water heater jacket.
Lee and his wife, Juanita, moved to Truth or Consequences, N.M., in 2005.
Lee is survived by his wife, Juanita Payne, his daughter, Juanalee Park (spouse Dan Park), and Karen Sullivan (spouse Tim Sullivan), five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Lee was preceded in death by his son, Keith Andrew Payne.