Memorial for Rich that is being presented to the University Friends Meeting in Seattle
Memorial Minute for Richard S. Beyer
Ann Stever, May 30, 2012
To be presented to the University Meeting Business Meeting, 6/10/12
Richard Sternoff Beyer, sculptor and member of University Friends Meeting, died on April 9, 2012, in New York City at the age of 86. He was born in Washington, DC July 26, 1925. He married Margaret Wagenet in October 1948. Both Margaret and Rich received Masters degrees in education from the University of Vermont after which Rich worked for 2 years for the Bureau of Economic Research in New York. Their children, Elizabeth and Charles, were born in 1950 and 1953 respectively. The family moved to Seattle in 1957, where Rich worked on a PhD in economics at the University of Washington. It was during this time that he started to carve in stone and wood, and found his life’s work and passion.
Rich became a member of University Meeting in September 1964. Both he and Margaret were active in the meeting while they lived in Seattle. Rich was particularly interested in Peace issues, but served on the Arts, Friends Center and Worship & Ministry Committees, as well as Social Concerns. In 1988, Rich and Margaret moved to Pateros, WA, where they were active in the Chelan-Methow Worship Group. Margaret died in 2004. In 2005, Rich moved to New York where he married Dorothy (Dee) Scholz in 2007. He retained his membership in University Meeting throughout his moves.
Dee’s husband, Robert Schulz, had also died in 2004. She wrote: “I know that Margaret's death was a terrible blow to Rich - he missed her terribly, as I did, Bob. Rich and I were able to share our grief and heal together - it was a great blessing for us both.”
Before Rich became known as a sculptor of public art, some University Meeting families commissioned carved cedar climbing sculptures for their children. One was a huge bear. Another included Rich’s humor, political views and Quaker values. In a large cedar snag, he drilled large holes in which he placed carved heads of political leaders of the first half of the twentieth century – Churchill, Stalin, Mao, Nkrumah, Gandhi and Roosevelt among others. As the children climbed up the sculpture, they kicked the political leaders in the face before standing on top of the political world.
“Waiting for the Interurban” in the Fremont area of Seattle is probably Rich’s best known and beloved public sculpture (dedicated in 1978). The “Peaceable Kingdom,” carved in 1984 and commissioned by the Community Council of the Madrona area of Seattle, reflects more concerns and playful humor. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were many run-ins between young people of color in the neighborhood and the Seattle police. The Black Panthers drilled on the Madrona play field. One side of the sculpture depicts a wolf and sheep, illustrating Isaiah 11:6-9. On the other side is a pig snuggling up to a panther. Peace, reconciliation and civil rights were all concerns of Rich.
Rich loved to tell stories with his sculptures, one of which is carved on the cedar fence of University Meeting. He was a man who did not follow rules, whether in school, art or career. He could be gruff and challenging. He wrote: “I celebrate the things that make being alive worthwhile – family and friends, work and caring: conversely I mock the things that debase us – greed, sloth, indifference and complacency.” He was always generous with aspiring young artists and people who did not quite fit into society’s narrow expectations.
In New York, Rich often accompanied Dee to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, where her husband had been pastor. Rich’s memorial, held there on April 14, 2012, included “extended silence” in which the congregation was instructed to “use it to hear the Holy Spirit moving in your spirit, to remember, to rejoice, and to renew the will to live in holiness and peace.” The scripture readings included the Isaiah Peaceable Kingdom passage. Rich would have appreciated all that, as well as the celebration of his life in Seattle, June 16, 2012, after the Fremont Solstice Parade at the Fremont Arts Abbey.
(Addendum: For those who wish more information about Rich’s life and work, Dee and her son developed a website: www.richbeyersculpture.com. And Margaret Beyer wrote The Art People Love: Stories of Richard S. Beyer’s Life and his Sculpture, Washington State University, 1999.)