Walter W. Heinz

   Walt Heinz was born in 1903, in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. As a boy, he enjoyed small town life as well as the out of doors, satisfying his adventuresome spirit by exploring nearby woods and the wild areas along the Chippewa River. His father worked as a telegrapher for the railroad, and at one time, the family lived in the depot in Jim Falls, Wisconsin. When Walt was approaching his teenage years, his family moved to a North Dakota farm where life was quite demanding. He left the farm to attend High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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   After graduating, he joined his family who had moved to California. After learning to be an electrician at UCLA and working to support his family for several years, he and his brother began a camping tour of the National Parks and other wilderness areas of the western United States, working in the California oil fields and the Washington state orchards. When they worked their way eastward, they harvested wheat and helped round up cattle to drive them to a rail yard for a train trip to Chicago. Walt and his brother rode the cattle train to Chicago and ended their tour of many months there.
In 1928, Walt was hired by Western Electric in Chicago. During the next years, he attended Northwestern University. In 1936, he was transferred to the Western Electric plant in Kansas City. He worked for the company as a methods engineer for 35 years.

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   He married Ada Liddell Zimmerman in 1939 and they reared two daughters, Jane and Cindy. Because of a great interest in science and geology, he became a rockhound and began making jewelry in 1950. Every vacation was an opportunity to find rocks and Walt and his family became eagle-eyed rockhounds. After years of making jewelry, Walt began to sculpt animals out of various kinds of rock such as granite, jade, and marble. After carving three-dimensional shapes for a time, he began to shape small flat pieces of rock and glue them together to make settings for jewelry; some were in the shapes and colors of birds.

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   As an artist, Walt is entirely self-taught. The same might be said for his dexterity and precision in cutting and polishing stones. In the early 1960's, he made his first commesso (intarsia). His boyhood experiences as well as a lifelong interest in nature provided his subject matter. He was a life member of the Telephone Pioneers of America, a lifelong conservationist and wildlife advocate, and a member of the Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation.

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   After his retirement in 1963, he devoted full time to his "stone paintings". His art is truly art for art's sake, intended neither for sale or exhibition. His only aim was to create the best that he could and he never sold any of his work because each picture, taking 3-5 months to make was very much a part of him.

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   As a member of the Blue Ridge Gem & Mineral Society for many years, Mr. Heinz exhibited his work and won acclaim in Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska rock shows. He also had an exhibit at the Kansas City Public Library and had numerous articles written in The Lapidary Journal, The View, magazine for retired Western Electric employees, and the Kansas City Star, Star Magazine.

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   He retired from creating commessi when he was 80 years old, to rest and read science and wildlife magazines. In December of 1987, he died at the age of 84.

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