John William Robertson

April 15, 1920May 9, 2018

John William Robertson, age 98, died peacefully on Wednesday, May, 9, 2018 at Shannondale Center in Knoxville TN. His love of painting has transformed the walls in homes of most all of his family, near and far. He could take a scene and as it passed through his imagination, use a one inch Aquarelle brush and 7 colors and draw you into his delightful way of seeing the world.

His parents were Lynn S. Robertson and Adella Pettersen Robertson. The middle son of 5 children, John played cello and piano growing up, but his heart was given to painting when his high school art teacher immediately recognized his artistic genius. After trying many mediums, John soon found his voice with watercolor, and his unique ability opened many doors for him. His college degree set him above his fellows in the eyes of his army commanders, while his love of pranks and natural free spirit had him peeling a lot of potatoes. His wry letters to his dad from army training were so funny and enjoyable that they were published as a book. Graced with an incredible sense of direction, John was the only one in his squad who knew which direction to go when they became isolated fighting through the hedgerows in France, and so while the others scattered to take their chances hiding from the Germans in barns and debris, John made his way back to US lines carrying his wounded commanding officer with him, at one point having to shoot his way past the enemy with a gun in one hand while supporting his officer with the other hand. He received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for his heroism and after being wounded, was sent home from the war to a stateside hospital where a pretty auburn-haired girl was waiting for him. They were married soon after. In Columbia Teachers College in the heart of New York City he completed his doctorate and it was there they had their first of 3 sons. Their other 2 sons arrived during his time teaching at Miami of Ohio.

John was brought to the University of Tennessee to be the first head of the Art Education Department. He had never encountered the dialect spoken by the locals and this midwest professor had many interesting conversations where he could understand only part of what was said. John was often asked to exhibit his work in libraries, museums and festivals. He served as university department head for 30 years and for a time, it was nearly impossible to find a school art teacher in the state who did not know and love him. He often took his family up to the nearby Smoky Mountains, sometimes camping in their station wagon. He retired to a quiet life with his family and his reading and gardening. He remained active with Church Street Methodist, and the East Tennessee Daylily Society. He gave his sons an inspiring example of a man who loved his wife and family above all else, supporting and encouraging and providing for them.

He is survived by his wife of 73 years Marylett Robertson and their three sons and their families.

Services will be conducted at a later date.


John William Robertson

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