Roanoke teacher and artist Deck remembered for inspiring others

Retired William Fleming High School art teacher Jimmy Deck, who was described as a true Renaissance man, lost his multi-year battle with throat cancer last week at the age of 65.

But that came long after he began touching the lives of the countless people who met him.

Deck graduated from William Fleming and he received a bachelor’s in fine arts from Radford University. He also taught at Roanoke City Public Schools at Woodrow Woodson Middle School and William Fleming for 30 years.

Anette Lloyd, a music teacher at William Fleming and Deck’s bandmate, said she would’ve never become a teacher had it not been for him — and that he charged the course of her life.

“He was more than just a teacher … I was going through a lot of difficult stuff and I needed someone to talk to for advice … and [his words] changed my life,” Lloyd said. “It made me want to become an art teacher so I could pay it forward.”

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Lloyd, 38, said Deck was a kind and patient teacher who would encourage any student to pursue their passions.

“There wasn’t a student he met who he didn’t inspire to try new things, and he would give honest and constructive criticism in a way that inspired his students,” she said.

Tom Landon, a former teacher with Deck at Fleming, said he was struck by Deck’s ability to work with more troubled and edgier kids.

Landon said Deck let them hang out in his classroom and took their art seriously.

“It really helped me out in what I was doing as a teacher,” Landon said.

Local poet and rapper, Brian Hancock, 38, who also goes by the stage name Harvest Blaque, said Deck was an influence in his art as well in high school.

“It’s been many years but he had a very positive impact on my life,” he said. “He was a very humble man always lighting the way for me and always supporting my work.”

Lloyd said she was also always in awe of the art Deck was working on, with the mediums he used to express himself.

“I would go into his classroom and he would always be working on something new or playing his guitar, and it’s actually how we started our band, Steemgeek Traveler,” she said.

The band played bluegrass-influenced music “with a twist,” incorporating dance and multiple members, including Deck’s wife Liza, who still teaches dance at Fleming, where the couple first met.

Liza said she started working at the high school in 1995, and the first time she saw Jimmy at a work meeting, she fell in love with him immediately.

“I know he was the one right then and there,” she said earlier this week. “It was five years before we started dating, but we were always great friends and he was the first person I would go to whenever I had a problem or wanted to talk about something.”

She said she so admired his creative side.

“He was always working on something, whether it was writing or some other project,” she said. “We really fed off of one another,” she said. “It was a very collaborative relationship … Even in his last few years, he was always just creating and creating.”

Jimmy Deck also built a miniature town in his home studio that he called “Steamer’s Point.” His photography exhibition “Light & Shadow,” was on display at Roanoke’s joint O. Winston Link Museum and History Museum of Western Virginia in 2020, according to The Roanoke Times archives.

It describes his photos as sharing “characteristics with film noir movies of the late 1940s and 1950s, projecting themes of mystery and drama. The name of the show also evokes this style.”

Liza Deck said she was not only in awe of her husband’s artistic ability but also his kindness, especially as he battled cancer.

“He was such a positive force even with all of that going on. He was delightful, a delightful person to be with,” she said. “I was very scared the whole time and he made me feel at ease with his positive outlook.”

Lloyd said of all the art and music projects Deck ever worked on, there was one thing he cherished above all of it.

“Liza, she was his world, 100%,” she said. “He adored her, and I mean adored her … she hung the moon, universe and solar system for him, and of all the things he loved, she was the true number one in his life.”