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Wesley Chapman Obituary

May 8, 1939 - August 17, 2021

Wesley Chapman passed away peacefully at home on August 17, 2021 at the age of 82 from complications of PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy). He was an Ashland resident for 51 years and a beloved professor in the art department at Southern Oregon University for 32 years.

On May 8, 1939 Wes was born on his family’s ranch near Ekalaka, Montana. He was the youngest of nine children born to ranchers Harry and Dora Chapman. Wes graduated from Carter County High School in 1957 where he was active in sports. Wes’ artistic abilities were evident at an early age. He drew pictures for his friends in elementary school and had a lively business creating realistic wood carvings of WWII guns and weapons, which he sold to kids in town. With his proceeds he treated his friends to movies and popcorn.

It was during the summer of his senior year of high school when he met Karen Groshelle who was in town visiting her Ekalaka relatives. From that moment on Wes and Karen developed a love that lasted over 60 years.

After high school he enrolled in Northern Arizona University and graduated with a degree in Art. After graduating he swept up Karen from the University of Utah and married her in Laurel Montana on May 28, 1961. On their honeymoon trip to southern Oregon to visit his brother, Wes was offered a job at Eagle Point HS where he developed the art program and was assistant track coach for 7 years. In Eagle Point the family grew with two daughters, Kelly in 1962 and Kara in 1965.

After post graduate studies at University of Oregon in 1970, the family moved to Ashland where he started his position in the art department at SOU. He founded the studio art photography program in 1975. Over the years, Wes expanded the photography curriculum to include color, mixed media, and the history of photography. Today’s photography facility and sophisticated lab is the result of Wes’ vision and relentless efforts. He served as Art Department chair and was on a variety of committees throughout his career. He completed his PhD in art education at University of Oregon. As an artist Wes maintained his own studio and exhibited regionally and nationally. He received numerous awards for his work, including the Carpenter Foundation and the Montana Committee for the Humanities grants.

Throughout his career he was highly committed to his students, whether organizing an exhibit, hosting a visiting artist, a field trip to San

Francisco or taking his photography class to the Steens Mountains for a week long photo shoot. As a teacher he inspired students, who often would return years later to tell him of the impact he made on their lives.

Through exchange teaching grants, Wes taught courses in 1991 at Fujian Teacher’s University in China, and in 1994 at King Alfred’s College in Winchester England.

Wes and Karen’s love of travel brought them to almost every continent. In 1986 the entire Chapman family travelled through China, Tibet, Nepal, Burma and Thailand, creating life long family memories. Wes and Karen also travelled to Tanzania, hiked up Machu Picchu, visited many European countries, as well as travelled extensively in the US.

Wes’ interests outside his work were to travel, bicycle, and cross-country ski. He was also an avid Oregon Duck fan and enjoyed getting together with friends to cheer them on. He loved animals and one of his favorite activities in his last months was to be driven to the dog park to watch the dogs play.

In the early 1990’s Wes and Karen bought property in their birth state of Montana and designed and built a lovely summer home on four acres outside the town of Red Lodge. This became a focal point for family gatherings every summer.

Wes is survived by his wife of 60 years, Karen, of Ashland, and his two daughters Kelly (David) Arron, of Seattle and Kara (Jonathan) Jordan of Central Point, grandson Nicholas Arron of Seattle, sister-in-law Norma and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents Harry and Dora Chapman, his brothers and sisters; Hyacinth, Ted, Millicent, Harry James Jr., Warren, Norman, Shirley Beth and Alan.

The family is forever grateful to Providence Hospice, especially Brenda, and the wonderful caregivers who helped make Wes comfortable during his last months; Jenny, Adelle, Asher, Holly and Lance.

Memorial service will be held at a future date at Trinity Episcopal Church in Ashland. A online tribute wall has been established for anyone who would like to post memories at

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to CurePSP (; or Food and Friends Meals on Wheels (; or Southern Oregon

University Foundation scholarships (

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