I'm sitting here with the laptop, watching the Democratic debate, and checking my email. And I received this note:
I was just on line looking for the obituary for Uncle Siegfried when I saw your post.
Mr. Weng died Tuesday night in Evansville, Indiana. He was nearly 104. He was my husband's uncle.
Over a year ago, we discovered these beautiful prints made by Mr. Weng in the house. I enjoy them so much and cannot wait to display them once our living room is finished.
How odd life is, these connections that we find through the things in the house even now.
Siegfried R. Weng, 103, died at 11:05 p.m. Tuesday, February 19, 2008, at St. Mary's Medical Center
He was director of the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, Science, 1950-1969.
Siegfried was born in Osh-kosh, Wisconsin, on May 20, 1904. His father, the Reverend George Michael Weng, was the highly respected Pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Christ Church, Oshkosh, for many years. He was an outstanding leader in the community. His mother, Jennie F. Hillemann Weng, was a homemaker, teacher, organist and artist. She and Siegfried shared their interests in art, music and nature.
Siegfried was preceded in death by his parents; three infant siblings; a brother, Armin G. Weng, who was a Lutheran Pastor and President of Chicago Lutheran Seminary; his wife of 18 years, Gertrude Schantz Weng; his wife of 40 years, Geraldine Daener Weng; and a niece, Christine Bahnemann.
His education includes courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which were honored by the University of Chicago. He holds both a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree from the University of Chicago, 1927 and 1928. In 1929, he studied at Harvard University in preparation for his museum work.
While a student at the University of Chicago, he studied with and became lecture assistant to Dr. Lorado Taft, noted American Sculptor. Siegfried posed for Dr. Taft's well-known sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, having been exactly Lincoln's height, 6 feet, 4 inches. The sculpture can be seen today in a city park in Champaign, Illinois. Also during his university years, he sang baritone in the University of Chicago Choir and served as cantor in the then new Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. He studied cello and played in a string trio. Throughout his life, he was in demand as a soloist. On December 20, 1931, he sang a solo part in "The Messiah" with the Westminster Church Choir in Dayton, Ohio.
In 1929, at age 25, Siegfried became Director of the Dayton Art Institute. Under his leadership, a museum building became a reality, the art collections were increased and a highly respected art school was established. In the auditorium of the museum building, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra was organized. It performed there for several years, and Siegfried was a member of the Philharmonic Board. It was a unique achievement to have been able to open a new art museum in Dayton at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s.
During the years 1933-1934, Siegfried was the Regional Director of Art Projects under FDR's WPA Program; and in 1935-1936, he was the State Art Director of Ohio, Federal Art Project. He was Art Instructor, University of Dayton, 1939-1941; Assistant Professor of Art, University of Dayton, 1941-? He was a member of the American Federation of Arts; the Art Museum Directors Association; the American Association of Museums; the Photographic Society of America; a member and past president of Midwest Museum Association.
Siegfried was Director of the Dayton Art Institute until 1950 when he was invited to Evansville. He came to lead in the planning, fundraising and achieving of the Evansville Museum building, and acquiring of works of art for a substantial permanent collection. He and his wife, Geri, traveled the country over, talking with museum directors, collectors and artist friends to bring to Evansville quality works valued collectively at over a million dollars at that time. He developed various programs, added the planetarium, created the Mid-States juried show and exhibition, and brought the locomotive and train cars to the museum. He retired from his position as director in 1969.
In 1960, Dr. Weng was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree by vote of the Faculty of Evansville College. In 1985, he was presented the Mayor's Arts Award for "more than thirty years of inspiring leadership and counsel." He is Director Emeritus of both the Evansville Museum and the Dayton Art Institute. On his 100th Birthday, Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel proclaimed May 20, 2004, Siegfried R. Weng Day.
Siegfried enjoyed nature and being outdoors. He loved the river. He bought a houseboat in 1944 and brought it with him to Evansville in 1950. Many happy hours were spent on the Elaine and also in his amphi-car, which traveled on both road and river.
Siegfried was a successful artist, producing drawings and prints over a period of 70 years. After his retirement, he had his drawings and prints reproduced on note cards which were sold widely throughout the Midwest.
In 1999, he was invited to show his art work in the Michael Dunn Gallery at Oakland City University. Later that year, he was honored with an exhibition at the Dayton Art Institute, followed by a show at University of Louisville in 2000. In November of 2004, the year of Siegfried's 100th Birthday, the Evansville Museum presented an exhibition of his work as a part of the museum's 100th Anniversary Celebration.
Siegfried's legacy speaks for itself. If you seek a monument, look to his two museums. It was his great pleasure to bring art and culture to those around him. He was an inspiration to all who knew him. He showed us all how to live, love and laugh. He will be greatly missed by his family and many friends.
He is survived by his wife of twelve years, Carolyn W. Weng; nephew, Armin G. Weng, his wife, K. Krewer of Orion, Ill.; niece, Elizabeth Weng Johnson, her husband, Kenneth W. of York, Pa.; other nieces and nephews, Nathan Truninger of Orion, Ill., Michael J. Weng, his wife, Karla of Milan, Ill., Jasmine Adams of California, John Weng of Palatine, Ill., Matthew Weng of Bloomington, Ill., Michelle Weng Runge and her husband, Rick, of Grand Rapids, Minn., Joy Johnson Bahnemann of Elgin, S.C., Peter Bahnemann of New York, N.Y., Paula Johnson Tibbetts and her husband, Tyler, of St. Johns, Fla., Jennifer Tibbetts Weinhagen and her husband, Jonathan, MacKenzie Weinhagen, Madeleine Weinhagen of Fredericksburg, Va., and Sarah Johnson Richardson and her husband, Gordon, of Waldorf, Md.
There will be no visitation, with a private graveside service only at this time. Interment will be in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Ky.
A Memorial Service of Celebration will be held at Neu Chapel, University of Evansville, at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences, 411 SE Riverside Drive, Evansville, IN 47713 or to the Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park North, Dayton, OH 45405, or to the charity of your choice. Arrangements by Alexander Newburgh Chapel, 5333 State Road 261.