Jane Ross was Bob Ross’ second wife. They were married when she died from cancer at age 50, and she was a partner in the deal that became the subject of a new Netflix documentary, “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed.”
They were married from 1977 until her death in 1992. When she died, Bob Ross owned only one-third of Bob Ross Inc., or BRI. Jane Ross was a part of the deal her husband had landed for his own product line, along with Annette and Walt Kowalski, according to The Daily Beast. It was her death that first loosened his grip on the company that bore his name, the outlet reported.
Through their marriage, Jane Ross became a stepmother to Steven Ross, Bob Ross’ son from his first marriage to Vivian Ridge Ross. She also used the name Vicky Ross.
The gentle painter known for his calming presence and his “happy little trees” kept his private life private. “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed” showed a darker side of his life that did not make its way until the public spotlight. The documentary was released on Netflix Wednesday, August 25, 2021.
Bob Ross Inc. released a statement in response to the film, which began, “Bob Ross Inc. takes strong issue with the inaccurate and heavily slanted portrayal of our company” and made responses to specific accusations. You can read the full statement here. The documentary made the Netflix top 10 list in the days after its release.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bob Ross Met Jane Ross When He Was Stationed in Alaska With the Air Force
Bob and Jane Ross met over the course of his military career. He joined the U.S. Air Force at 18 years old in his hometown in Florida and was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska, at Eielson Air Force Base, according to Biographics. He was married at the time to Vicky Ross, his first wife. They had one son together: Steve Ross.
Bob Ross spent 12 years in Alaska, a landscape that served as an inspiration for his paintings, the bio said. It was also in Alaska that he would find his second wife, Jane Ross. The Daily Beast reported that Jane was a civilian employee for the Department of Defense, living in Alaska.
Bob Ross rose through the ranks and became a master sergeant, serving as a medical records technician and first sergeant at the clinic on base, the bio said. He had said the job required him to be “tough” and mean,” the bio said.
2. Jane Ross Was Involved With the Deal Bob Ross Landed When He Incorporated His Own Product Line
Jane and Bob Ross were married at the time he decided to incorporate his business and form his own product line, according to the Daily Beast. It was that deal, and how it played out after his death, that was the subject of the Netflix documentary, “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed.”
Bob Ross made a deal with Dennis Kapp, the owner and CEO of art-supply company Martin F. Weber, after Kapp approached Ross at a trade show. They met for lunch and made a deal on the spot, the Daily Beast reported.
“In early 1985, the die was finally cast,” the Daily Beast reported. “Bob and Jane Ross, and Annette and Walt Kowalski, officially filed incorporation papers in Virginia for Bob Ross, Inc. All four were technically equal partners, although most knew that Bob was the decision-maker. He was the figurehead, the talent, the name, the face behind it all. Without him, the company was little more than a few pieces of worthless paper (or so it may have seemed at the time).”
When she died, a “downward trajectory” began, the Daily Beast reported.
“As a result of the company’s structure, her stock was divided equally among the surviving three partners,” the Daily Beast reported. “Thus, after her death, Bob only owned one-third of the company that bore his name—a situation that could not have sat well with a man who was used to being in charge.”
3. The Death of Jane Ross Led to One of Bob Ross’ Most Memorable Quotes
Bob Ross often drew life lessons from painting, which he shared with his viewers. One of his most common sayings was “happy accidents,” and showed his viewers how a mistake could transform a painting into a masterpiece.
Another one of his life lessons came shortly after the death of his wife, Jane, according to NPR. It was on Season 23, Episode 3. Ross was speaking about the importance of adding dark into a painting for contrast. Without bad times, he said, it’s not possible to fully appreciate the good times.
“Gotta have dark. Gotta have opposites, dark and light, light and dark, continually in painting. If you have light on light, you have nothing. If you have dark on dark, you basically have nothing,” he said. “It’s like in life. Gotta have a little sadness once in a while so you know when the good times come.”
“I’m waiting on the good times now,” he added.
4. Jane Ross Died From Cancer in 1992 & Her Memorial Included Donations to the American Cancer Society
Jane Ross died from cancer just five years before Bob Ross would also die following a battle with lymphoma. Her obituary asked for memorial contributions to be directed to the American Cancer Society.
“Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society,” the obituary said.
Bob Ross died after a battle with lymphoma, which he fought for years, according to his obituary published at the time of his death in the Orlando Sentinel.
“Bob Ross, the bushy-haired, soft-spoken painting instructor who found fame on public television’s The Joy of Painting, died this week of cancer,” the Orlando Sentinel reported July 8, 1995.
5. Jane Lee Zanardelli Ross Was a Virginia Native & Had 5 Siblings; She & Bob Ross Did Not Have Children
Jane Ross’ full name was Jane Lee Zanardelli Ross, her obituary said. She was born January 26, 1942 in Monongahela, Virginia, and later settled in Herndon, Virginia, her obituary said, after spending time in Alaska as a civilian employee with the Department of Defense.
Jane Ross had five siblings, including a brother who died before her, the obituary said. Her surviving siblings were all sisters, the obituary said.
Her obituary said:
Jane Lee Zanardelli Ross, 50, of Herndon,Va., and formerly of Monongahela, died on Saturday, Aug.1,1992, in Fair Oaks Hospital, Fairfax, Va. She was born Jan. 26, 1942, in Monongahela, a daughter of Emily Harvey Zanardelli of Bentleyville and the late Reno Zanardelli. Survivors inlude her husband, Robert N. Ross; one son, Stephen Ross of the state of Indiana; four sisters, Joan Zanardelli of Bentleyville, Mrs. Joseph (Janet) Dolinar of Venetia, June Ramoski of Charleroi and Mrs. Martin (Joyce) Fry of West Newton; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by one brother, Jack Zanardelli.
Bob and Jane Ross did not have children together. Her obituary, however, describes his son, Steven Ross, as a surviving child.
“Survivors include her husband, Robert N. Ross; one son, Stephen Ross of the state of Indiana; four sisters, Joan Zanardelli of Bentleyville, Mrs. Joseph (Janet) Dolinar of Venetia, June Ramoski of Charleroi and Mrs. Martin (Joyce) Fry of West Newton; and several nieces and nephews,” her obituary said.
Find a Grave noted that some sources inaccurately say that Bob and Jane Ross had a child together named Morgan. Some sources also said he had two sons in his previous marriage, listing another son named Bob Jr. His own obituary, published at the time of his death in 1995 in the Orlando Sentinel, says Ross had one son and a surviving wife, Lynda.