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The Death Of Bob Ross – Time And Cause Of Death

In a time where the magic of Bob Ross’s painting tutorials is a much-needed escape from life for a lot of people, many of us are shocked to find out that Bob Ross has died decades ago. A lot of us expect the permed-haired painter to live out his days while painting happy little clouds and are surprised to learn about his death.

Bob Ross
Bob Ross inspired millions of people to paint until his death.

Who Was Bob Ross?

Bob Ross was an American TV painter who is mostly known for his television show “The Joy of Painting”. Ross painted landscape scenes with a special wet-on-wet oil painting technique he developed and refined. This technique allowed him to create stunning paintings in 30 minutes all while calmly instructing his viewers to paint along.

Bob Ross inspired millions of people to pick up a paintbrush. He touched even more of us with his soothing voice, calm personality, and unexpectedly philosophical quotes about life, art, love, and happiness on his TV show “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross”.

Hint Of Springtime Painting
“Hint Of Springtime” : A typical Bob Ross painting featuring a mighty mountain and happy little trees

How Did Bob Ross Die?

Walter J. Kowalski, CEO of Bob Ross Inc., told the New York Times that Bob Ross died from cancer. The exact cause of death was complications from lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancerous growth most often found in lymph nodes.

Bob Ross kept the diagnosis a secret from his audience and the public eye. His death came as a surprise to many fans and followers, as nobody outside his family and circle of friends knew of the disease.

What Kind Of Cancer Did Bob Ross Have?

According to sources near him, Bob Ross died of a type of cancer called Lymphoma. This is a group of blood and lymph tumors that grow from special immune system cells called lymphocytes.

While the tumors are mostly painless other symptoms of this illness include fever, weight loss, and a constant feeling of tiredness. Since it attacks cells of the immune system a patient’s immune response can also be inhibited.

Bob Ross during the last episode of "The Joy of Painting"
Bob Ross at the end of the last episode of “The Joy of Painting”

How Did Bob Ross Get Cancer?

Common risk factors for lymphoma are a large consumption of red meat and tobacco smoking. Bob Ross, who in his personal life was often described as a ‘red-blooded American’, certainly loved and enjoyed both of these things.

It is often speculated that Bob’s exposure to all kinds of chemicals did not help his health either. Especially fumes from paint thinner and other solvents should be avoided as much as possible.

Does Paint Thinner Give You Cancer?

Several studies have shown that there is a correlation between cancer and long-time exposure to certain chemicals that are used in paint thinners.

In general, you should try to avoid fumes from painting solvents as much as possible. Keep your painting room well ventilated and stick to known quality brands of paint thinner.

When And Where Did Bob Ross Die?

Bob Ross, who was born on October 29th, 1942 died on July 4th, 1995 in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. He was 52 years old at the time of his death.

After Bob Ross enlisted in the United States Air Force at 18 years old he worked his way up to the rank of Master Seargent. During this time he started to paint on his lunch breaks. After leaving the Air Force and his job as a “tough and mean guy” Bob Ross vowed to never scream again in his life.

Bob Ross in his Air Force uniform
Bob Ross in his Air Force uniform

Did Bob Ross Go Through Chemo Therapy?

When Bob was diagnosed with cancer he did not inform his fans and the public about his illness. As far as we know, he only told a small inner circle of friends and family about his health problems. Bob continued his TV show ‘The Joy of Painting’ as long as he could.

We don’t know about the specifics of Bob’s health treatments, but it is suspected that he did not go through chemotherapy. While Bob’s health seemed to decline during the last seasons of his show he never showed typical side effects of chemotherapy like hair loss or extreme weight loss.

Net Worth At His Time Of Death

While some websites claim that his net worth at the end of his life was around $10 million there is no way to verify this more than 25 years later.

It is clear however that he did not die as a poor man. The company he founded with his lifelong partners the Kowalskis sold art supplies and instructional material and has been a big success. In fact, Bob never received a cent for his TV show ‘The Joy of Painting’. The whole show was a big marketing operation for his brand of paints and tools.

Judging from the massive pop cultural impact Bob Ross and ‘The Joy of Painting’ had (and still have today!) a net worth in the millions does not seem unlikely. Especially considering that the show ran for over 30 seasons over more than 10 years.

Did Bob Ross Die Rich?

As one of the figureheads and owners of a successful brand and company Bob Ross certainly was well of at the time of his passing.

His Legacy – What Lives On

The story of success does not end with the death of Bob Ross. Not only is he survived by his son Steve, who is a painter himself and appeared on “The Joy of Painting” several times. The company he founded, aptly named “Bob Ross Inc.” after himself, continued to sell painting supplies, books, and recordings of the TV show.

Bob Ross Inc. – Keeping The Dream Alive

In the last couple of years, Bob Ross Inc. managed to cement Bob’s legacy as a pop culture icon even more. Starting with a “The Joy of Painting” marathon on the company’s channel the show regained popularity across the internet.

Streetwear label RIPNDIP's Bob Ross Sweater
Streetwear label RIPNDIP’s Bob Ross Sweater

The company leveraged this popularity into collaborations with fashion labels, a Bob Ross themed board game called “The Art of Chill”, playing cards and other trinkets, and probably thousands of Bob Ross Inc.’s tubes of Titanium White.

Bob Ross Inc. managed to keep their business running for almost 30 years without their namesake painter. In addition, they used the power of the internet and social media to grow into a branding powerhouse. But not everyone is happy about this.

Some fans argue that Bob would not want his name used for blatant money grabs like Bob Ross themed NFTs. The man himself didn’t even want his own paintings sold because he’d rather inspire people to create their own paintings. Whatever your stance is – Bob Ross Inc. knows how to make money.

Painting With Nic Hankins And Other Bob Ross Instructors

But the company didn’t forget about its founding business. With certified Bob Ross instructor Nic Hansken they managed to find a talented painter and instructor to keep teaching Bob’s famous wet on wet technique.

While Nic surely takes some inspiration from Bob’s iconic style of teaching he still manages to make the lessons his own. And some might even dare to say that Nic’s technique is better than Bob’s. But people said the same about Bob and his teacher and mentor Bill Alexander.

Keeping The Bob Ross Dream Alive | Northwest Waterfall | Featuring Nic Hankins

The Dark Side Of Bob Ross’ Death – The Fight For His Legacy

After Bob’s untimely death from cancer, a lot of people expected his son Steve to take over. People thought that he would continue his father’s legacy as a businessman and head of Bob Ross Inc., as well as a showman in the role of a painting instructor on ‘The Joy of Painting’.

But that did not happen. In the last few years, we’ve learned the truth about Steve’s struggles with Bob’s old business partners, and why he did not follow his dad’s footsteps.

While we know only one side of the story it seems like there happened a lot of legal battles over Bob’s legacy. The company Bob Ross founded with his partners did not fall into Steve’s hands. In fact, Steve didn’t have anything to do with Bob Ross Inc. at all.

After almost 25 years Steve resurfaced and told his side of the story in the Netflix documentary “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed”. Steve also teamed up with Bob’s old friend Dana Jester.

Together they are running workshops and teaching lessons. So while Steve might not be affiliated with Bob Ross Inc. anymore, he surely is keeping his father’s legacy alive.
Read more about Steve’s story

The 5 Most Painted Bob Ross Paintings In 2021