John Willard

The "Black Angel," the cemetery sculpture that fascinated Quad-City youngsters for generations, is in good hands.

The statue, the subject of a recent column, stood sentinel at the grave of Charles H. Deere in Moline's Riverside Cemetery for most of the 20th century until members of the Deere family removed the piece to save it from vandalism. The statue was the object of frequent Halloween pranks and the source of numerous urban legends.

Mary Jane Brinton, a great-great granddaughter of John Deere, told us that her sister, the late Patricia Hewitt, had the statue moved to her home in the San Marcos pass near Santa Barbara, Calif., which later was sold.

She contacted her niece Anna Hewitt Wolfe, who tells us what became of the Black Angel.

Wolfe, 48, a daughter of Patricia Hewitt, said that the sculpture welcomes guests to the Mandala Center, a retreat center high on the slopes of Sierra Grande Mountain near Raton, N.M. Wolfe is founder and president of the center. It was inspired by her mother, who had first visited the site in 1987.

The Mandala Center, founded in 1996, is "a peaceful place for small groups to come for refreshing the mind, renewing the spirit and healing the body," according to its Web site.

The sculpture stands at the entrance of the center's main building, which features round walls, a 30-foot tower and a smaller tower with a spiral staircase.

"When we sold mother's place, my brother and sister suggested that the statue would be the perfect addition to the center," Wolfe said. "It is serene and beautiful and adds to the welcoming and peaceful feeling of the whole place."

She said guests often ask about the statue and that she would like to know more about its history. She finds no sculptor's signature on the piece, which is about seven feet tall and cast in metal, perhaps bronze. The statue is barefoot and clutches grapes or olives in its right hand.

Would she ever consider bringing the statue back to the Quad-Cities?

"I think it would be great if she could come back there, but I fear the same thing might happen to her that happened before. You can still see some of the scratches and marks on the surface."

For more on the Mandala Center and photos of the angel in her new setting, visit the center's Web site at http://www.mandalacenter.org">www.mandalacenter.org.

A note of thanks

These weekly meanderings into local history, now in their sixth year, would not be possible without the help of readers, librarians, public relations professionals, history buffs, museum curators and others. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I offer a hearty "Thank you" to the following, in no particular order, for their research assistance, photos and other help over the past year:

Angela Campbell, Davenport Public Library; Amy Groskopf, Karen O'Connor, Mary Ann Moore, Pat Richardson and Sarah Wesson, all of the Davenport Public Library Special Collections Center; Jim Dyer, St. Ambrose University; Stan Buesing, Y's Men; Kermit Wells, Moline Boy's Choir; Kathy Byers and John H. Pollitz, St. Ambrose University O'Keefe Library; Lorenzo Duke; Lysa Hegland, SouthPark Mall; Wendell Terry, Hiram Lodge No. 19, Free and Accepted Masons; Barbara Wommack, Semper Fidelis Club; Linda Barlow and Kathy Horrell, both of Genesis Medical Center; Kathleen Seusy, and Joyce Hanna, both of the Rock Island County Historical Society; Ruth Learner; Darrell Doss; Phyllis Dearing, Buffalo Bill Museum; Gretchen Small and Angela Hunt, both of Butterworth Center & Deere-Wiman House; Todd Slater, Riverside Cemetery; Grace Johnson, Trinity College of Nursing; Cheri Bustos and Erin Lounsberry, both of Trinity Medical Center; Dawn Neuses and Rita Toalson, both of Royal Neighbors of America; John Humenik, Roy Booker and Ann McGlynn, all of the http://www.qctimes.com">QUAD-CITY TIMES; Jan Jones, Quad-City Medical Society; Jack Haberman, Gold Coast and Hamburg Historic District Association; Mary Oelschlaeger, Visiting Nurse and Homemaker Association; Paul Fessler, United Neighbors Inc.; Dr. Thomas Brumley; Harriet S. Olson; Gerry Odean and Sharon Snawerdt, both of Modern Woodmen of America; Rick Sundin; Cindy Anderson; Kris Leinicke, Rock Island Arsenal Museum; Elizabeth Carvey-Stewart, Black Hawk State Historic Site; Sara Ward, National Woman's Christian Temperance Union; Eunice Schlicting, Putnam Museum. A special thanks to Vern Wriedt.

John Willard can be contacted at (563) 383-2314 or jwillard@qctimes.com.