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'He taught most of Washington County how to paint'

Clyde Roberts, a painter and former supervisor of art for Washington County Public Schools, dies at 87

January 25, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Clyde Roberts shows one of the Valley Art Association's floral paintings on exhibit at the Mansion House in Hagerstown in 2006.
File photo

HAGERSTOWN — Clyde H. Roberts, a well-known local artist and former supervisor of art for Washington County Public Schools, died Monday after he contracted an infection that quickly spread through his body.

Cindy Downs said her 87-year-old father died at Reston (Va.) Hospital Center surrounded by his family.

"He taught most of Washington County how to paint," Downs said of her father, who taught a painting class that was broadcast to students via closed-circuit television. "He was a great educator. He loved to teach people from the smallest children on up."

Downs said her father and mother, Janet Roberts, were returning from vacation Sunday when he got sick on the airplane. Paramedics took him from Dulles International Airport to Reston Hospital Center, where he died at 10 a.m. Monday.

She said his death came as a surprise because he recently visited the doctor and received a clean bill of health.

"There was no surgery," Downs said. "He died before that was an option."

Downs said she and her brother, Kent Roberts, met with their father on Thursdays to paint landscapes.

"My dad and I had a standing date for 30 years," Downs said of their Thursday meetings. "My dad was my best friend. He was always fun."

Kent Roberts said he remembered his father teaching him how to draw when he was 3 or 4 years old.

"He would draw a tree, and I would add a branch," Kent Roberts said. "It's a total shock (that he died). I don't think any of us have come to terms with it yet."

Kent Roberts said he fondly recalled helping his father teach children's art classes at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. Clyde Roberts also taught art at Hagerstown Junior College, the Mansion House Art Center and the Mont Alto campus of Penn State University.

"He was very passionate about his art," Kent Roberts said. "You couldn't help but feel his influence."

Kent Roberts said he later followed in his father's footsteps by becoming an art teacher in 1971. He still teaches part time at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa.

Clyde Roberts also will be missed by many friends.

Marjorie Tressler, assistant director at the Mansion House Art Center, said she used to watch Roberts teach art on closed-circuit television when she was in fourth grade. Tressler said she didn't take art classes from Roberts again until after she graduated from high school.  

"He did so much with art and influenced so many people," Tressler said. "He was instrumental in my early development. He was a dear, old friend."

Tressler said she saw Roberts at the Mansion House only a few weeks ago. She said she felt like crying when she heard he died.

"He was just a nice guy," she said. "Art always came first."

Tressler said Roberts was one of the founding members of the Mansion House Art Center at Hagerstown City Park in 1991. Right away, he began to teach painting classes and continued doing that for about 12 years.

"He was very patient — a very kind and generous man," said Tressler, noting that Roberts often gave away his paintings.

Roberts graduated from the Cleveland Art Institute and Case Western Reserve University. He later earned a master's degree from Columbia University.

He began teaching art at Hagerstown High School in 1949 and left to teach at South Hagerstown High School seven years later. He ended his career as supervisor of art for Washington County Public Schools.

Roberts was listed in the Who's Who in American Art.

Downs said her father also taught Sunday School at Zion Reformed United Church of Christ in Hagerstown, where he used Christian-themed art as a learning device.

Downs said her father would be cremated. A memorial service is to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Zion Reformed United Church of Christ.

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