Interesting Things

By Ray L. Bellande

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Harry Del Reeks (1920 - 1982)

Marine Combat Artist Harry Del Reeks

Marine Combat Artist Harry Del Reeks

Harry D. Reeks was born on May 23, 1920 at Covington, Louisiana.  He studied with Jose Mass, a Spanish artist, in New Orleans, and his father, John F. Reeks, who was also an artist and sculptor.  Reeks also worked with Horace Russ and Charles Reinike of the old Arts and Crafts Academy in New Orleans as well as the California School of Fine Arts.(The Daily Herald, August 21, 1971, p. 2)

During WW II, Harry D. Reeks was a Marine combat artist in the South Pacific landing on Georgia, Bougainville, Guam, and Saipan in the Solomon and Treasury Island groups.  At Iwo Jima, he was twice wounded.  Some of Reeks works of this period are in permanent collections at the US Marine training base on Parris Island, South Carolina and at Brown University in the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection.(Chloe B. Reeks, January 23, 1994 and January 18, 2000)

Harry D. Reeks met and married Chloe Baker, a Marine reservist, in Hawaii.  They lived in California and Texas before settling at Biloxi in 1954.  Harry was employed in public relations at Gulf Hills during Elvis Presley’s sojourn there and did interviews with “The King”.  He also worked as a portrait artist in the Branigar Brother’s resort.  During this period, Reeks became a licensed realtor while at Gulf Hills working for Scott McCole.  Reeks later formed his own company, Gulf Beach Realty Company, which was office on Desoto Avenue in the Blossman addition of 1967.(Chloe B. Reeks, January 18, 2000 and The Ocean Springs Record, August 10, 1967, p. 10)

The real estate business brought Harry Reeks into contact with Spurgeon Pickering (1893-1964), a land speculator from Crystal Springs, Mississippi, who acquired Gulf Park Estates, a speculative land development east of Ocean Springs, from Joe Jones.  Harry designed and supervised the construction of Gulf Park Estates and was its first manager.(J.K. Lemon, August 1995 and The Sun Herald, January 17, 1982)      

'The Door'

Arguably one of Reek's most controversial works was "The Door", which was exhibited at the People's Bank in the spring of 1960 at Biloxi.  "The Door" was an abstract interpretation of the Jesus comment: 'I am the door, and through me you will find the heavenly kingdom'.  The painting was hailed by viewers as: beautiful, ugly, horrible, colorful-Reeks commented that "[it was] the best I ever painted".(The Daily Herald, April 16, 1960, p. 14)

St. Michael's sculptures [1964]

In the 1960s, Harry D. Reeks became enamored with sculpture.  His works are well represented on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and elsewhere: Mary and Joseph and St Anthony at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Biloxi (pre-1969); the Sam Dale Monument at Daleville, Lauderdale County, Mississippi (1968); the Crown of Glory at St. John’s Catholic Church in Biloxi (pre-1974); the Golden Fisherman in Biloxi (1977); and Our Lady of Guadeloupe at Pass Christian. 

Sam Dale Monument

[image made August 26, 2006 by Ray L. Bellande]

Sam Dale

Sam Dale(1772-1841) — Born in Rockbridge County, Va., 1772. Served in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812; member of Alabama state legislature, 1819; member of Mississippi state legislature, 1836. Sam Dale Memorial State Park, near Meridian, Miss., is named for him. Died near Daleville, Lauderdale County, Miss., May 24, 1841. Interment at a private or family graveyard, Lauderdale County, Miss. Dale County, Ala. is named for him.

self caricature  and image of Mr. Reeks

In March 1980, Reeks opened a gallery and studio at Porter Street in Ocean Springs.  He called it Cellini, a moniker given him by David McFalls (1912-1974) who began calling Reeks “Cellini”, after the masterful Italian sculptor and author, Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571).  Mrs. Reeks also worked at the studio potting with indigenous clays.(The Daily Herald, March 12, 1980, p. C-8)

Perhaps Ocean Springs most underrated artisan, Harry D. Reeks left an art legacy to the region, when he expired on January 15, 1982.  His corporal remains lie at rest in the Evergreen Cemetery on Old Fort Bayou.

Mysterious Hermit of Deer Island

[for story see The Ocean Springs Record, July 22, 1971, p. 16)

Hurricane Katrina

On August 29, 2006, Hurricane Katrina essentially destroyed the waterfront of the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Many of the statuary of Harry Dell Reeks were victims of this tempest.  At Biloxi, ‘The Golden Fisherman” was knocked down by the storm’s powerful “tidal surge” that swept the coastline.  In 1977, Reek’s “Golden Fisherman” was positioned on the south side of Howard Avenue near the Biloxi Regional Medical Center.  It was relocated to the Point Cadet Plaza in late September 1998, shortly before Hurricane Georges struck the region.  The City of Biloxi has plans to re-erect the statue at a location not yet determined.(The Sun Herald, February 18, 2006, p. A9)

   

Golden Fisherman at Vieux Marche in Biloxi, Mississippi

Golden Fisherman

In March 1975, Harry Reeks (1920-1982), Ocean Springs sculptor, and Mayor Jerry O'Keefe (b. 1923), presented his proposal for 'The Golden Fisherman', a welded, 12 foot, bronze statue to be electroplated with 14 carat gold, to the Biloxi Planning Commission and Urban Renewal Commission.  The project was expected to cost between $30,000 and $35,000.  Reeks was commissioned to create the Golden Fisherman in mid-April for $34,000.  The sundial was to be replaced by the Golden Fisherman.(The Daily Herald, March 21, 1975, p. A2 and April 18, 1975)

Golden Fisherman stolen

On June 11, 2006, the “Golden Fisherman” was stolen from Point Cadet Plaza where it had lain since being toppled by Katrina.  Mayor A.J. Holloway proposed a $15,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the object d’art and conviction of the perpetrator of the theft.  Biloxi’s City Council must approve this proposed appropriation.(The Sun Herald, June 12, 2006, p. A1)

The Golden Fisherman was discovered in a field in rural Mobile County, Alabama on June 13, 2006.  An informant, the neighbor of Herman Allen Hicks of Semmes, Alabama, will receive $15,000, if Hicks, the accused thief, is convicted of the crime.  By Mississippi state law, a reward of this nature cannot exceed $2500, but Mayor A.J. Holloway guaranteed $12,000 and others in the community contributed as well.  The Reeks sculpture, made of scrap metal, was cut into seven pieces and the face destroyed by the thief.  It was returned to Biloxi and locked in a storage shed.  Mayor Holloway related that the statue’s condition will be evaluated before a decision is made to restore it for public display.(The Sun Herald, June 14, 2006, p. A1, June 15, 2006, p. A1, and July 9, 2006, p. G1)

REFERENCES:

Coast Lines“Harry Reeks”Volume 1, No. 2, December 1971.

Drawn of the Line: Artist of World War II, (The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi, Mississippi-Art Exhibit Brochure-August 2000).

Collier’s Magazine (1945)

Travel and Leisure (1980)

Journals

The Bay Press, “Homecoming”, June 16, 2006, p. 1.

The Daily Herald. "Explanation of abstract given by the artist", April 16, 1960.

The Daily Herald, “Harry Reeks—Something Different”, August 21, 1971, p. 2.

The Daily Herald, “Biloxi considers replacing sundial with golden sculpture of fisherman”, early March 21, 1975.

The Daily Herald, “Reeks commissioned for 'fisherman sculpture', April 18, 1975.

The Daily Herald, “Golden Fisherman”, early March ?, 1977.

The Daily Herald, “Sculptor explains smile on face of fisherman”, early March ?, 1977, p. B-1.

The Daily Herald, September 8, 1978

The Daily Herald, “More than ‘seven rooms of fine art’”, March 12, 1980, p. C-8.

 

The Ocean Springs News

The Ocean Springs News, “”, August 20, 1964, p. 2.

The Ocean Springs News, “Harry Reeks noted combat artist”, August 27, 1964.

The Ocean Springs News, “Biloxi, Miss.” [photo]July 8, 1965

The Ocean Springs News, “”, September 30, 1965,

The Ocean Springs News, “Harry Reeks, president art group in Biloxi”, March 24, 1966, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Sam Dale Monument is near completion”, May 31, 1967.

The Ocean Springs Record

The Ocean Springs Record, “”, March 24, 1966, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Final moulds for Sam Dale Monument”, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, "Park plan for Dale Monument", August 10, 1967, p. 9.

The Ocean Springs Record, “New addition to Blossman Building", August 10, 1967, p. 10.

The Ocean Springs Record, “”, January 31, 1968, p. 4.

The Ocean Springs Record, “”, August 8, 1968.

The Ocean Springs Record, “”, August 14, 1968, p. 2.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Sam Dale Unveiling Held Last Sunday”, October 17, 1968, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Ocean Springs Festival of Arts has successful days”, April 17, 1969, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Artist Series-Harry Reeks”, June 19, 1969, p. 3.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Harry Reeks wins art show prize”, September 12, 1968, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Memorial fountain [monument of Iberville Landing] proposed 3 years ago”, July 30, 1970, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Reek's sculpture ['Holding to the Faith'] on TV via Whistle Stop Gift", April 4. 1971, p. 3.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Collector returns for Hermit's portrait”, July 22, 19721 p. 16.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Fragments in Reeks show”, March 2, 1972, p. 2.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Reeks to speak at art meet”, April  13, 1972.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Reeks gives Perkinston Program”, April 26, 1973, p. 4.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Harry Reeks”, January 21, 1982, p. 2.

The Ocean Springs Record, 

The Ocean Springs Record, 

The Ocean Springs Record, 

The Sun Herald

The Sun Herald, “Reeks turns art to ‘prophesy’”, November 2, 1980.

The Sun Herald, “Gulf Coast artist, sculptor Harry D. Reeks dead at 61”, January 17, 1982.

The Sun Herald, “Show draws on Artist's varied media”, May 15, 1988, P. F-1.

The Sun Herald, “Flashback: Golden Fisherman”, March 13, 1994.

The Sun Herald, “”, September 24, 1995, P. G-1.

The Sun Herald, “Biloxi’s Golden Fisherman sculpture deserves more respect”, October 1, 2000, p. G-1.

The Sun Herald, “Have you heard of Sond?”, September 16, 2001, p. G-1.

The Sun Herald, “Biloxi statue’s future in question”, February 18, 2006.

The Sun Herald, “Biloxi’s Golden Fisherman statue missing”, June 12, 2006.

The Sun Herald, “Disappearance puzzles Biloxi”, June 13, 2006, p. A2.

The Sun Herald, “Statue found in Mobile Co.”, June 14, 2006, p. A1.

The Sun Herald, “He’s pretty beat up”, June 15, 2006, p. A1.

The Sun Herald, “Metal-scavenging crime trend sweeping Coast, country”, July 9, 2006, p. G1.