Robert Vernon O’Dell stepped into the next life on Sunday, July 9, 2017, surrounded by family and dear friends.

He was born on June 4, 1938 in Decatur, IL to William and Luella O’Dell. After graduating from Warrensburg-Latham High School, he enlisted in the US Army, where he was a member of the President’s Honor Guard in Washington, DC. He then attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where he studied with Irving Shapiro and was inspired by the paintings of Andrew Wyeth.

He married Ann Smullen on September 15, 1962, as far as their parents knew (but really eloped on April 4). Ann passed away in 2011. Their two children, Kelly (Tim) Stanley and Kerry (Doug) Dunham, and five grandchildren (Katie, Anna, and Bobby Stanley; Reilly and Luke Dunham), survive. He is also survived by his sisters, Jean (Bill) Barnes and Vicki Hill, both of Decatur, IL.

Rob first worked as a commercial artist, exhibiting his watercolors at weekend art fairs. As he had more and more success (sometimes selling out the first day and then painting all night to have more to sell the next day), he realized he might be able to make a career of painting. In 1968, Rob and Ann settled into an old family farmhouse outside of Ladoga, IN, where he began painting full time.

In Rob’s art, there is nothing contrived or artificial. Rob found beauty in the seemingly quiet rural life, in the slight rises and dips of the Midwestern landscape, in the nuances of color in an evening sky or in the patterns of light and shadow in a garden. His work reflects the way he lived his life—simply, honestly, quietly, and joyfully—and helped others see the world the way he did.

When asked how long it took him to paint a particular scene, he loved to say “3 hours and 30 years” (which eventually morphed into 40 and then 50 years). He never stopped improving his craft, and his watercolors have been exhibited and shown in galleries and private collections all over the world. His turn-of-the-century studio/gallery was decorated with award ribbons from the Watercolor Society of Indiana, Hoosier Salon, Indiana Artists Club, and more. In 1995, he was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash.

When he wasn’t painting, he loved to golf, watch IU basketball, attend his grandchildren’s sporting events, and teach workshops. He was blessed to find love again with a lifelong friend, Rita Jerger. He spent the past five years enjoying life with her in Bonita Springs, FL.

A man’s character is evident in the caliber of people he surrounds himself with, and Rob inspired great loyalty and deep friendships. His artistic talent, while remarkable, is nothing compared to his gift for making people feel valued, appreciated, and loved.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Art League Fund of the Montgomery County Community Foundation (PO Box 334 Crawfordsville, IN 47933) to help provide scholarships to students with artistic ability.