John Wissemann

John Wissemann, artist and beloved art teacher at Southold High School, died peacefully on Nov. 22, 2022, in his home in the company of his wife and daughter. 

He is survived by his wife, Nancy Wissemann; children Melanie, Christopher and Timothy; their spouses; and his grandchildren, Will Wissemann and wife Kylie Alpaugh of Dedham, Mass.; Emily Wissemann of Cambridge, Mass.; I.H. Essex of Providence, R.I.; Alex Wissemann of Falmouth, Maine; Nick Wissemann of Falmouth, Maine; Helena Essex of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Grace Wissemann of Dunedin, Fla.; and Cody Wissemann of Dunedin, Fla. 

His grandchildren hold many memories of John from their time with him in Southold, Maine, London and Culebra. In his later days, John loved to hear about the interesting lives of his grandchildren and the adventures and endeavors of his children. 

John was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on July 24, 1925, and moved to Southold shortly afterward. He received his high school diploma from Jamaica High School in Queens early so that he could enlist in the Navy at 17 in 1942. During his time in the Navy, John worked as an aerographer, measuring the weather and air density on convoy duties. When on shore patrol, one of his tasks was driving officers to the beach, a task for which he didn’t quite have all the requisite skills, but as he told it, he found that military Jeeps were easy cars to learn to drive on. Upon his return to the U.S. he found his naval driving skills didn’t quite translate to New York back roads, and his first attempt at acquiring a driver’s license was unsuccessful — a story he would tell his grandchildren to assuage their driving worries. 

After serving in the Navy, John attended Syracuse University, receiving both a BFA and MFA. He had a dual career as an artist and teacher, showing widely at galleries in New York City, California and Maine. He was the beloved art teacher at Southold High School for 33 years. Following his retirement from teaching, he would often run into former students who remembered their time in the classroom warmly. He was also adjunct professor of watercolors at Southampton College. 

John was a member of First Universalist Church of Southold and a founding member of the Cedar Beach Yacht Club. John was a lifelong avid gardener, tending to his gardens in both Southold and Maine with great care and attention to the natural landscape. 

At Syracuse, John met his wife, then Nancy Widrig, on the steps of the College of Fine Art in 1948. Five years later, they began their 69-year marriage. Nancy fondly remembers their courtship mostly consisted of going out painting together, an activity that continued throughout their years together, wherever they found themselves. 

In 1968, John and his family began spending summers in mid-coast Maine in the town of Cushing, where his development as a painter was invigorated by the arts community there. Beginning in the ’90s, John and Nancy would spend several months in the warmer climes of Culebra. In these working winters, John would spend mornings cutting stencils made from his drawings of the environs, bringing the inspirations of the flora and fauna back to his Southold studio. 

John made valiant efforts to live as rich and full a life as possible, having two shows of his work in 2022. He will be remembered for his high standards for his teaching, his painting and his parenting. His students will remember his positivity and encouragement; his grandchildren will remember the opera music that always accompanied him in his studio. 

To see John at work in his studio, look for “Stencils, Pencils & Working Harbors of Maine” on YouTube. 

John’s requested rendition of “Der Rosenkavalier” and his celebration of life will be planned for a later date. 

Donations made on his behalf may be sent to the First Universalist Church of Southold Building Fund or Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation.

This is a paid notice.