A farm girl who also was a World War II captain, Roxie Remley was a strong-willed woman and one of the warmest people folks could meet. The Statesboro and Georgia Southern icon passed away Friday at Ogeechee Area Hospice. She was 99.
“Roxie may be the best teacher I ever had,” said Laura Milner, an associate professor emeritus in writing and linguistics at Georgia Southern. “She taught by example. I watched her lose vision, hearing, balance and independence, and yet she kept going. Kept engaging. Kept making her bed every morning in the military style she learned in the Army during World War II. She kept going to First Methodist every Sunday with her friend, Jo Ann Marsh, and to every theater and musical event she could manage. She voted in the General Election and attended a political rally last fall. She listened to NPR on her portable radio and brightened up when local therapy dog owners brought their animals to visit her. She was curious to the end.”
Born in 1919, Remley grew up on a farm near Darlington,
Indiana. She graduated from Peabody College with bachelor’s and master’s
degrees in art education before attending the prestigious Pratt Institute
School of Art in New York City where she earned a master of fine arts.
But before Remley became a force for the arts in Statesboro, she helped beat a path for women into the U.S. Army during World War II, becoming an officer and receiving some training classified top secret.
Her experimental training may have been secret because it involved the use of radar when it was a closely guarded wartime technology. But the mission was also sensitive because it placed women in a potential combat role. On the cutting edge of history, Remley served in what was originally the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and volunteered for overseas deployment after the corps was made part of the Army.
She attained the rank of captain before leaving the service in 1946.
In 1950, she came to what was then Georgia Teachers College
where she molded a few art education courses into an academic department. She
taught drawing, painting and art history at Georgia Southern for 26 years,
retiring in 1976.
While teaching, Roxie exhibited in dozens of juried shows throughout the South and Midwest. By 1962, she had earned the Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Pratt School of Art in New York. In later years she attended summer sessions at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis and Kennedy School of Art in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She was an active member of local, state, regional, and national art associations.
A resident of Southern Manor in Statesboro, Remley was a regular student in the yoga class of local instructor Inge Spencer. Remley attended her last class on January 16.
“Roxie was an inspiration for everyone,” Spencer said. “She tried everything in the class she could manage. A few weeks ago I gave her a few less poses and she knew it. She told me, ‘Come on now, I need more stretching.’”
Remley became an official “legend” in Statesboro in 2011 when she was inducted into the Averitt Center for the
Arts Legends Gallery during a ceremony in the Emma Kelly Theater. “It is a bit too much for me to take in at one time,”
Remley said at the ceremony. “It is an honor.”
Remley was the fourth person to be inducted as a Legend in the Arts.
“We at the Averitt Center for the Arts are deeply saddened by the passing of Miss Roxie,” said Rahn Hutcheson, deputy director for the Averitt Center. “She was a wonderful lady who had extraordinary talent. She lived a fantastically adventurous life and absolutely loved to talk about it. Even in her late 90s, Roxie was a regular at the Emma Kelly Theater and came to as many performances, plays and events as she could. Staff members would pick her up and take her home at times.”
In addition to her art, Remley stayed active with the Averitt Center, the Statesboro Civic Garden Club, the Bulloch County Historical Society, and Statesboro First United Methodist Church and is a lifetime member of the Statesboro Regional Art Association.
“Last December, she made it a point to send a Christmas card full of pictures to our Visual Arts department,” Hutcheson said. “It is still displayed in the building which bears her name. She will definitely be missed but her artistic spirit will live on at the Averitt Center and in the Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts.
Memorial services will be held at Statesboro First United Methodist Church at a date and time to be announced.
Contributions may be made to the Roxie Remley MFA Scholarship Fund, Georgia Southern University, PO Box 8053, Statesboro, GA 30460; the Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts, Averitt Center for the Arts, 33 E. Main St., Statesboro, GA 30458; Statesboro First United Methodist Church, PO Box 2048, Statesboro, GA 30459; or Darlington United Methodist Church, 201 W. Harrison St., Darlington, IN 47940.
“Earlier this week, after she was moved into Ogeechee Hospice, she asked me, ‘Am I going to make it?’" Milner said. “I told her I wasn't sure and asked what she thought. She drifted to sleep, and I hoped that she would find the answer just that peacefully. The next night, she told two Hospice nurses, "I'm dying." That's the kind of person she was. Direct. Willful.
“At 12:35 p.m. today, she did exactly that. After visits from friends old and new, she gradually stopped breathing. She showed us how to live and how to die. With courage, with humor, and without complaint.”