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Trinity Memorial Centers Funeral Home Obituaries

John Robert Charles

February 28, 1939 - September 22, 2022
John R. Charles, Obituary

John Robert Charles was born in Rogersville, TN on February 28, 1939. A professional artist for six decades, John refined his art skills from New York to Florida, then moved to Los Angeles and settled in Northern California. After 20 years he returned to the lush green mountains of East Tennessee. He died at age 83 of cardiac arrest in Kingsport, TN on September 22, 2022.
When John was six years old, his father Gale died serving in WWII. Johnny (boyhood name) moved with his mother Pearl and younger brother Eddie from Rogersville to Reno, NV (briefly) then to Kingsport and attended Sullivan Gardens Elementary School. Several years later when his mother married Daryl Weems, they moved to Daryl’s farm near Baileyton, TN. Johnny was Valedictorian of Baileyton High School’s Class of 1957. He graduated from ETSU in 1961 with a fine art degree and teaching certificate, taught Art and English for one year at Bohemia Manor High School in Maryland, then took advanced art training in Woodstock, NY, and at The Art Students League of New York.
While exploring art opportunities in Florida, John met artist Suzanne McMillan in 1966. Six weeks later they were married eager to start their lives together as professional working artists. After a very cold and snowy winter living near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Ashe County NC, they packed up their two cars and drove with her big dog across the country to Hollywood, California.
John Charles pursued his passion: making art. During his time in Hollywood John designed logos, painted record covers, started a comic strip, developed a series of pen and ink drawings, and did the movie title artwork for the film “Chastity” starring Cher. Sonny Bono admired John’s groovy colorful clothing made by Suzanne. John won many awards including Best in Show and First Place Ribbons for his paintings at art shows along the West Coast.
Preferring a quiet lifestyle (they did not smoke, drink alcohol, or do drugs), John and Sue left Los Angeles for Petaluma, CA (north of San Francisco) eventually settling down in Morgan Hill, CA (south of San Jose) to start a family. John became a successful business owner of The Framemaker Shop. The front of his frame shop served as a gallery for his artwork. After his divorce in 1979, John joined Toastmasters and Parents Without Partners (PWP) in nearby San Jose, California.
In 1987 John sold his frame shop and returned to East TN. John was active in the regional art community from his home in Sevierville. His impressionist painting “Picking Flowers” won Best in Show and a Purchase Award from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
After a brief marriage to Peggy Jill and moving back to Northern California (to the small town of Rough and Ready north of Sacramento) John returned to East TN for good in 2002. He found a fixer-upper house in Kingsport in 2007 which kept him busy with extensive repairs. John was very grateful to friends who helped work on his house especially Wayne Ritchie, Art Holsclaw, and Jim Arnold (he recalled Jim’s wife Gloria made them sandwiches).
In addition to his professional creative pursuits, John loved his family, friends, nature, books, positive thinking, writing long letters, woodworking, singing Elvis tunes, and making smoothies. He also looked forward to attending his Baileyton High School class reunion every year and art league meetings every month. John attended Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in 2003. He enjoyed their Sunday service, potlucks, people, activities, simplicity classes, and deep discussions.
Before slowing down after a major fall in January 2019, John volunteered his painting and handyman skills for local community projects including painting the lobby walls of the Bonnie Kate Theater in Elizabethton in 2006.
A longtime and current member of the Watauga Valley Art League, John was a versatile and award-winning artist. Mastering a variety of mediums, he loved reflecting the beauty of nature in his drawings and paintings. With subjects from people and animals to landscapes and abstracts, he wanted “to unite the subconscious with a realism that makes fine art enjoyable”. Recently John attended their monthly meeting on Sept. 11, 2022, and was eager to examine the art supplies promoted by the guest speaker.
Cards or letters with your memories of John will be greatly appreciated by his children. Mail them to his house or to DonnaTina Charles, PO Box 1142, Church Hill, TN 37642.
Do you own a painting by John Charles? Send us a photo of you with his artwork. We would love to see it and learn how his artwork has brought joy and beauty into your life.
A Celebration of Life will take place on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, at 11 am at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN. Potluck lunch to follow the memorial service.
John was preceded in death by his father Gale Wiley Charles, mother Mary Pearl Barrett Charles Weems, step-father Daryl Weems and first wife Suzanne Williams McMillan (formerly Sue Charles).
John is survived by his daughter DonnaTina Charles, son Vincent, younger brother Edwin Barrett Charles (Barbara), step-sister Josie Ruth Starnes, step-sister-in-law Helen Weems, uncle-in-law Hiram Bowlin, niece Lisa Charles, nephew Jason Charles (Anca), niece Valerie Charles Grant (Cameron), step-niece Jill Ressler (John), step-niece-in-law Ruby “Tootie” Starnes, step-niece Debi Starnes (Jim Emshoff), step-niece DaVena Austin (Maynard), step-niece Sheila Carter (Bronson), cousins Carolyn Hall (Wayne), Betty Wilder (Grant), Sandy Culbertson (Chuck), Bennie Oass (Richard), Joe Barrett (Jeanne), step-cousins Donald Weems, Norma Jean Thompson and Frances Brandon, grandnephew Ian Charles, grandniece Olivia Charles, grandniece Frances Grant, grandnephew Coburn Grant, step-grandniece Emily Hecht (Drew), step-grandnephews Brennon Carter and Theron Carter, special friends Judy Wilson, Wayne Ritchie and Jody Beckett, along with many more treasured family, cherished friends, admired classmates, esteemed colleagues and dear neighbors.

Trinity Memorial Centers Funeral Home (423-723-8177) is honored to serve the Charles family.