Obituary : Fred L. Messersmith
Fred L. Messersmith "really had a charmed life," said his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth Jane Paryzek Messersmith.
A noted watercolor artist and art professor at Stetson University, Messersmith had a passion for the arts, which he instilled in his students. Among them was his son Harry Messersmith.
"I had the unique opportunity of being an art student of my father's," said Harry, who is also an artist. "But he never pushed the career onto me. I became attracted to it by his example, and drawn to it by his talent."
Messersmith died Monday of natural causes at his home in DeLand, Fla. He was 84.
Born in Sharon, Penn., Messersmith graduated from Brookfield High School in Ohio. In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces aviation-cadet program, where he became a 2nd lieutenant. During World War II, he was stationed in Liberal, Kan., as a flight instructor of Liberator B-24 bombers.
Messersmith earned bachelor's and master's degrees in art from Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. While there, he met Elizabeth, who sang in the a cappella choir.
"He wanted to meet me so he tried out for the choir and made it," Elizabeth said. "After our second date, he took me for an airplane ride out of the local airport." The couple married in 1948 and had six children.
Messersmith taught art at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, where he was chairman of the art department for 10 years. During that time, he held a one-man art show in New York, which later led to shows in London and Florence, Italy, as well as at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota.
In 1959, the family relocated to DeLand, and he joined Stetson University as the chairman of the art department. During his 30-year career there, he taught a range of art classes that included watercolor painting, art history, calligraphy, and interior design. He worked on creating Christmas cards for the president of the university and original paintings for anyone who had worked at the school for 30 years or more. He was an artist-in-residence until 2008.
Messersmith and his wife spent the summers from 1969 to 2008 in Massachusetts after he became involved with the Martha's Vineyard Art Association. As director of the nonprofit, he taught watercolor painting and exhibited his work there. He remained an artist-in-residence there until his death.