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Rev. Joseph Heyd

LACON — The Rev. Joseph Heyd. O.S.B., monk and priest of St. Bede Abbey, aged 82, died the morning of Thursday, April 4,  2013, at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon, where he had been a patient since August of 2012.

His body will be returned to the St. Bede Abbey Church at 4 p.m. Friday. The wake service will continue after the reception of the body until 8 p.m. with a prayer vigil celebrated by the monastic community at 7:30 p.m. and again on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m.

The Rt. Rev. Philip Davey, O.S.B., abbot of St. Bede, will preside at the funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Saturday, with burial to follow in the abbey cemetery. The Mueller Funeral Home of Peru is in charge of funeral arrangements.

Father Joseph was born in Peoria on May 1, 1930, the first of five children of Wilbert and Alice Martin Heyd. He was baptized as James Wilbert at St. Bernard’s Parish, where he also attended the parish grade school, then staffed by Dominican sisters. His high school years were spent at Spalding Institute, which was at that time staffed by monks of St. Bede Abbey.

Two of his maternal uncles, Rev. Boniface Martin (1888-1974) and Rev. Patrick Martin (1896-1968) had been monks of St. Bede, a third uncle, Rev. Charles Martin, was a priest of the Peoria Diocese who had served as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Peru, and a fourth Martin brother, James, had been ordained for the diocese but died of influenza less than a year afterward. One of his mother’s sisters had become a Holy Cross nun.

Father Joseph was an outstanding student at St. Bede Junior College from 1948 to 1950, and then entered the monastic community, making his first profession on July 11, 1951, after which he spent the next two years earning a Bachelor of Arts degree at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. During the next three years he studied theology at St. Bede and taught mathematics and Latin to academy students.

After ordination to the priesthood on Sept. 22, 1956, he did graduate work in theology for another two years at the Collegio di Sant’ Anselmo, the international Benedictine university in Rome, Italy, earning a licentiate degree.

Already during his college years he had discovered that his principal talent was in art, and during the next decade he developed his techniques, first in calligraphy and painting and then in sculpture, for varying periods of time at several different institutions: the Art Institute of Chicago (1958 and 1961-62), the University of Notre Dame (1959), Webster College at Webster Grove, Mo., (1965-66), the Otis Art Institute at Los Angeles, Calif., (1968-69), and the San Francisco Art Institute (1971-72), where he earned the Master of Fine Arts degree.

During much of this period and afterwards, until his retirement from teaching in 1994, he was also art instructor and chairman of the art department at St. Bede Academy. After the abbey’s round cow barn became vacant following the sale of the monks’ dairy herd in1970, he renovated it and turned it into a sculpture studio equipped with a kiln for the production of both ceramic pieces and bronze sculptures. After it had served for some 25 years, this studio was ignited by a brush fire in 1997 and burned to the ground. It was later replaced by the current brick art building at St. Bede, which contains a small gallery of some of Father Joseph’s art work.

His major works, however, have a more prominent setting. These include the monumental bronze statues of internationally famous violinist Maud Powell, a native of Peru, which was commissioned by local citizens to decorate a new plaza downtown on Fourth Street, and the statue of St. Mark the Evangelist and his symbolic lion that stands outside St. Mark’s Church in Peoria.

He also created the bronze statue of St. Francis of Assisi in the village park at Hennepin, the outdoor statue of Mary, Mother of the Church at St. Monica’s Parish in East Peoria (a duplicate copy of which stands in the grass courtyard at St. Bede next to the abbey building), and the steel statue of the Risen Christ in the St. Bede Abbey Church.

In 1994, upon retiring from teaching, Father Joseph was assigned as part-time associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Peru, where he resided for the next 15 years, assisting in the parish while also continuing his art work at the abbey on most afternoons. He had previously had some parochial experience for brief periods at St. Joseph’s Parish in Chicago in 1958, at Holy Trinity Parish in Cherry in 1969, and at St. Joseph’s in Peru in 1970.

Upon the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, Father Joseph returned to St. Bede Abbey, where he remained until his transfer to St. Joseph’s Nursing Home. In addition to the monastic community of St. Bede Abbey, Father Joseph is survived by his three sisters, Mrs. Joan Schaber and Mrs. Patricia Callaway, both of Peoria, and Sister Mary Ann Heyd, O.P., of Sinsinawa, Wis. He was preceded in death by his parents and by his brother, Attorney Charles Heyd of Cincinnati, Ohio.

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