Kenneth Arnold Wiseman

August 13, 2019

Resided in: JOHNSON CITY, TN

Kenneth Arnold Wiseman, 72, of Johnson City, passed away Tuesday, August 13th, at the Johnson City Medical Center from a heart attack.

Kenneth was born at Memorial Hospital in Johnson City on May 20, 1947 and was a lifelong resident of Johnson City. Profoundly deaf from an early age, Kenneth was enrolled at the age of 5 in the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Speech and Hearing program where he was fitted with his first hearing aids and learned to read lips. Despite his challenges navigating the hearing world, Kenneth loved learning and excelled in school, graduating from Jonesborough High School in 1965. He received a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from ETSU in 1969, a master’s degree in Mathematics from ETSU in 1972, and a second master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Tennessee in 1976. He later pursued a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Missouri, Rolla.

Kenneth’s love of learning extended way beyond the classroom. He was a voracious reader and found incredible joy roaming the shelves of bookstores. Zimmerman’s Books in Johnson City was his favorite bookstore and he visited every Sunday until it closed. Kenneth was almost always found reading a book or a magazine unless he was on vacation with his family, during which time he would set down his usual mystery novel to comb through the new city’s yellow pages. These yellow pages served as his guide to that city’s photography stores, woodworking shops, and art museums. Some of his happiest times occurred while he was photographing wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains while hiking with his wife, Barbara; working with his brother, Gary, on a woodworking project; or visiting a museum with his child, Stephen.

Kenneth shared his love of learning with Stephen, as well as many students he taught in Computer Science and Mathematics at ETSU and other schools. When he wasn’t teaching, he worked in various computer departments, including Nuclear Fuels, Holston Valley Hospital, PET Dairy, Electrolux and others.

Kenneth was an avid sports fan and loved the ETSU Buccaneers and, later in life, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. He loved country ham, making breakfast including chipped beef or sausage gravy on weekend mornings, and cooking out hamburgers and hotdogs for his whole family.

Kenneth had a big heart and clarity about the inherent worth of all people. After voting for Richard Nixon in his first presidential election in 1968, Kenneth quickly realized the error of his ways and from that time forward proudly identified as a “lifelong” Democrat. In parenting Stephen, he offered experiences to learn about people, cultures, and places outside of his lifelong home, pointing out injustices based on race, class, religion, sexuality and other categories wherever he saw them.

Kenneth was preceded in death by his parents, William “Jack” and Billie Jean Wiseman; grandparents, William “Milt” and Lizzie “Suzie” Wiseman and James “Jim” and Kate Briggs; and his brother and best friend, Gary Lee Wiseman.

Kenneth is survived by his wife, Barbara Smith Wiseman; his only child, Stephen William Wiseman and daughter-in-law, Heather Branham; his sister, Dianne McMichael and her husband, Gary; his sister, Debbie Arnold; his sister-in-law, Gail Wiseman; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

The family of Kenneth Wiseman will receive friends from 1:00pm until 3:00pm Saturday, August 17th at Morris-Baker Funeral Home. A private family memorial service will be held at a later date.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Wilson-Hartsell Scholarship Endowment, Department of Mathematics, East Tennessee State University, 312 Gilbreath Hall, PO Box 70663, Johnson City, TN 37614.


Visitation: August 17, 2019 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Morris-Baker Funeral Home & Cremation Services
2001 E Oakland Ave
Johnson City, TN 37601

(423) 282-1521

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Memories Timeline


  1. Don Bailes says:

    Barbara, I am so sorry to hear about Kenneth’s passing. He was my first friend when I moved to Johnson City in 1972, and I still remember sitting on the ground helping him chip old mortar from a pile of bricks that were to be incorporated into your home on Seminole Drive. You and he helped welcome my son John into the world and you baby-sat for John when my second son Jeff arrived. You made an adorable “lamb” cake for John on his first birthday – I still enjoy looking at the pictures of that day. Ken helped get the computer science program off the ground at ETSU on its way to becoming one of the largest programs at ETSU today. I wish I had the words to say to comfort you and all of the extended family. I know he is not suffering any earthly ills today and he will never need hearing aids again. May God richly bless you and all Ken’s extended family and friends as you grieve his loss. Love always, Don Bailes

  2. Gaye Williams says:

    Barbara & Stephen, my heart is heavy with this news. Kenneth was my mentor, boss, teacher and dear friend while I was at ETSU. He was the photographer at my wedding 6/7/75, when he was getting serious with his photography. I have many happy memories of days at work in the computer center, and dinners and activities with our computer club. Pretending to leave me after a pit-stop is one of the infuriating memories!, but I guess I deserved it as Tim and I were always teasing Kenneth. “Poo Bear” will always be special to me. Love, Gaye

  3. Gene Bailey says:

    Dear Barbara, I am so sorry to learn about Ken. I ran into him at Sams Club several months ago and we had a delightful time reminiscing about our time together at ETSU. WE WERE A SMALL DEPARTMENT, WITH ONLY 4 faculty full time so we got to know each other very well. I greatly respected him. A truly good man who genuinely cared about his students. He will be greatly missed.. Gene Bailey.

  4. Betty Watson says:

    My deepest sympathy and love to the family.

    The first time I saw Kenneth is when Billie and Jack brought him home from the hospital. Billie and Jack lived in an upstairs apartment in a big stone house at Maple St hill. Billie and Jack were thrilled with their firstborn child.

    When Billie went into the nursing home, she had an 8×10 photo of when they were young and newly married. She cherished it.

    I saw her kids her grow up as the fine people they became. I was also sorry to hear when Gary passed.

    Billie was my favorite cousin and Aunt Kate was my favorite aunt. I knew Gail because she was a friend to my sister Pam King.

    Love and prayers,

    Betty Smalling Watson

  5. Stanford Johnson says:

    In fond remember remberence! —Stan

  6. Cathy Wilhite says:

    Barbara, Stephen, and the entire Wiseman family,
    We are heartbroken to hear the news that our beloved cousin Kenneth has passed away. We have fond memories of our visits from New Orleans to Johnson City. We had such a good time with Kenneth, Gary, Diane and Debbie.
    With all our love,
    Scarlett, Penny and Cathy

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