Longtime Waco businessman and Dr. Pepper Museum founder Wilton Lanning died suddenly Wednesday at age 81.

Born in Waco in 1936, Lanning graduated from Baylor in the 1960s and eventually went on to run Padgitt's -- the well-known electronics store purchased by his dad. It was once the city's oldest business. Lanning retired as owner in 2005, and the new owners closed the store in 2014.

Lanning became the Dr. Pepper Museum's first president when he opened the popular Waco destination to the public in 1991. In the years since, more than 1.7 million people have visited the site, which recognizes America's oldest major soft drink.

"It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our dear friend Wilton Lanning," the Waco Business League wrote in a notice to its members. "Surrounded by his wife, Lee, and sons Robert and Bill and their families, Wilton went to be with the Lord [Wednesday] afternoon."

In 1988, Lanning became the fifth President of the Waco Business League. He served as the organization's executive director for 13 years.

"He loved the Business League and its role in our community, always emphasizing the 'we' instead of the 'me' in all situations," the league said.

Less than a year ago, the league honored Lanning with its lifetime achievement award.

A funeral is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, which is located at 1300 Columbus Avenue in Waco. A visitation is tentatively scheduled to be held a day prior, on Saturday, from 6 to 8 p.m. inside the Dr. Pepper Museum, which is located at 300 S. 5th St. in Waco.