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The Rev. Joseph Heyd O.S.B. left a legacy greater than one of Peru’s most remarkable landmarks — the Maud Powell statue in downtown Peru. The name of Heyd, who died this week at age 82, is not easily visible on the statue of the American virtuoso violinist, but it can be found on a plaque at the rear of the plaza surrounding the statue he designed and cast in bronze. Likewise, his name isn’t obvious on many of his other lasting contributions to the Illinois Valley, St. Bede Abbey and Academy and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Peru. But his contributions were many, said Rich Cummings, now golf coach and art department chief, who followed Heyd to fill just two of the positions the priest had filled. Heyd had been golf coach at St. Bede for 26 years. “He taught art many years and really made the St. Bede art program what it is. There are a lot of people who chose art as a profession because of what he taught us,” said Cummings, who also was one of Heyd’s students. Cummings mentioned Texas artist Steve Mignone as one of the professional artists who learned painting and sculpture from Father Joseph. “He inspired so many of us. It was just a remarkable atmosphere to be a young artist and work with him … and get to know his friends that were artists.” “He was like a second father to me. He was just a very deeply caring man. He cared about his students. He had a great sense of humor and was very disciplined in what he did and expected his students to be disciplined,” said Cummings. “He was just a wonderful man who gave everything for his students and his work.” The art works sold or created by Heyd profited the St. Bede community, not Heyd. Among statues for which he received commissions were the one for Peru, a statue of St. Francis of Assisi commissioned by the Boyle family for Hennepin, “Mary Queen of the People” for St. Monica’s in Peoria and a duplicate near the St. Bede Abbey Church and one of Sts. Peter and Paul that was purchased and presented to Pope John Paul II, Cummings recalled. His sculpture also was “whimsical and fun at times,” occasionally a play on words with two meanings or two spellings. Cummings recalls one bronze casting of a gourd being gored, with a bull’s horn through the gourd. He recalled one of clouds that is hinged, with a silver lining inside, “Every Cloud Has One,” and a whale with a mouth that would open for a figure of Jonah to unfold. Heyd studied theology for three years in Italy while he expanded his preparation for a life of service as a priest, and after that studied art in St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco and also at the University of Notre Dame under an instructor and artist who studied under French painter and sculptor Auguste Rodin. Despite his accomplishments and studies in art and theology, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church secretary Libby Wertz recalled Heyd telling her perhaps the highlight of his life came when he was in Italy and “he actually got to confess to Padre Pio, who later was canonized a saint.” Both Wertz and Bill Schulte, who was Peru Citizens Service Organization president when the CSO persuaded Heyd to create the Maud Powell statue, described the priest as an extremely “gentle spirit,” “kind” and as a “gentle man.” “He was quite a guy,” Schulte said. In the early 1990s, when the city of Peru created a plaza at Fourth and Putnam streets, mayor Donald Baker told the CSO he wanted a statue of Peru-born violinist Maud Powell and wanted the CSO to take a leadership role. “I immediately thought of Father Joseph,” said Schulte, who was a parishioner at St. Joseph’s Church, where Heyd served as assistant pastor until 2009. Schulte said Heyd thoroughly studied hairstyles circa 1900, clothing and how the subject would have held the violin. “He studied in-depth Maud Powell to not only capture a likeness of her but also to find a pose she probably would have struck on stage.” For the Maud Powell statue, Heyd had bronze work done in Rhode Island. The mock-ups and design work, like much of his art work, took place in his art barn on the St. Bede campus. The Rev. Harold Datzman, O.S.B., pastor of St. Joseph’s, didn’t recall Heyd working on art in the rectory in Peru; he did that at the barn. Instead, while in Peru and assisting at the church, Heyd personally dedicated himself to people coping with illness at Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru and St. Margaret’s Hospital in Spring Valley. “He did a lot of work with the hospitals. He visited the hospitals every day. … That was his strong suit, being able to care for the sick. He was a very compassionate person,” Datzman said. - An obituary appears in today’s edition.
Posted: Friday, April 5, 2013
Article comment by:
So much enjoyment of the arts thanks to this beautiful priest.
Padre Pio is a very interesting being to read about, and quite the mystic, capable of many extended gifts such as bi-location.
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