An Airman's Story: Master Sergeant Robert (Bob) N. Ross

Sergeant Robert Norman Ross was born October 29, 1942, in Daytona Beach, Florida. and He was raised in Orlando, FL.

Sergeant Bob Ross enlisted in the Air Force in 1961, during the Vietnam War, and served as a medical records technician. Rising to the rank of Master Sergeant, he held the post of First Sergeant of the Air Force Clinic at the Eielson Air Force base in Alaska.

He had seen Bill Alexander's TV show, the Magic of Oil Painting, which sparked his interest in painting.  Sergeant Bob Ross began studying with Mr. Alexander while still in the Air Force.

He served in the Air Force for 20 years, retiring in 1981.

After his retirement from the Air Force, Sergeant Bob Ross created the Joy of Painting, which ran for 11 years. Many of his paintings were inspired by the Alaskan scenery he had seen during his time in the Air Force.

His hair, permed initially to save money, became part of his image, one that he never really liked much.

Another part of his image, his soft, cheerful voice, was also influenced by his Air Force career, saying that he had yelled so much in the Air Force that he never wanted to yell again.

Sergeant Bob Ross was also a big fan of country music.

He passed away on July 4, 1995, due to lymphoma, and is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Colma, California. His grave is visited just as much as Andy Warhol's.

The "Joy of Painting" still re-runs on PBS stations, and you can also watch them on Open Culture.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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