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Masons give painting back to artist’s family

Century-old work given to Heath’s great-granddaughter

August 5, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

For Kate Remus, looking through an old family scrapbook led to an unexpectedly large prize - a nearly 7-foot wide painting done by her great-grandfather.

Sunday afternoon, members of Fort Dodge's Ashler Masonic Lodge met with Remus, of Minneapolis, and her mother and siblings to return the painting which was donated to the Lodge nearly 100 years ago.

The painting is striking not only for its size, the rich history behind it, and the way it brought complete strangers together, but also because it depicts a Minnesota lake set against a backdrop of what appear to be the Rocky Mountains.

Article Photos

Kate Remus, of Minnesota, reacts on seeing this painting by her great-grandfather for the first time. The painting was donated to the Masonic Temple in the 1920s and kept on display there for nearly 100 years. Now, the Masons have donated it back to Remus and her family.

"He painted pictures with mountains in them where maybe there shouldn't be mountains," said Remus' mother, Margaret Perrier. "We laughed when we saw this one."

Remus' great-grandfather Albert Heath was both a painter and an officer of Ashlar Lodge for many years. Sometime around 1920 he painted a picture of a spot that had grown popular to several fishermen and members of the lodge, according to Lodge Secretary Dan Brown.

Another Lodge member, Ray Campbell, created an ornate frame, and the painting of the cabin by the lake under the mountains hung in the main hallway outside the pool room in the Masonic Temple from the early 1920s until 2010.

After the Temple was sold, the Masons began meeting at the former Hillcrest Elementary School, and the painting was put into a storage room.

Then last May, Brown got a call from Remus. She asked if she could purchase the painting.

"It was decided that as we do not have a current prominent place to showcase this painting, that we would return the painting to Albert C. Heath's granddaughter's family in the manner it was given - at no cost," Brown said.

Because of the difficulties in shipping a large painting, the family decided to drive down and pick up the painting in person.

When Remus first laid eyes on it, she found herself at a loss for words.

"They told me it was big, they sent measurements, but until you're seeing it in person - wow," she said.

Brown said giving away the painting honored the Masons' ideals, as well as the memories of the painter and the framer.

"Bert and Ray, as they were called back then left a piece of history for us to share," he said. "The memory of Bert and Ray will be great as they both spread the cement of brotherly love and affection which is what we, as Masons, are taught to do."

Remus and her brother Jamie Perrier told the Masons of their appreciation.

"You've gone the extra mile," Jamie Perrier said. "It gives us a quick introduction to how brotherly love works."

In gratitude, Remus brought a gift basket full of candy and snacks for the Masons -including Heath bars.

Margret Perrier said it was very exciting to finally see the painting.

"We had no idea," she said. "We knew grandpa did a lot of painting. He started when he was a kid. It was his hobby."

"It's kind of funny because this is supposedly placed in Minnesota, but there's no mountains in Minnesota," said Maggie Perrier, Remus' sister. "There's nothing even close to that. My mother says she used to sit by the river with him when he painted, and she said he was taking artistic license with the mountains."

"I'm wondering if he didn't go to Lake McDonald at Glacier National Park," Jamie Perrier. "That looks a lot like Lake McDonald."

"He did travel west. He never forgot that, seeing the mountains," Margret Perrier said.

Remus also made a connection with Webster County Historian Roger Natte, who was interested in all the Fort Dodge history Remus said was in the scrapbook.

Natte was especially excited to see the photo Remus brought of another of Heath's paintings. This one was of the Des Moines river somewhere in the Fort Dodge area.

"There aren't too many pictures of the Des Moines back then," Natte said. "We're always looking for more."



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