William Arthur von der Heydt, a painter who came to Provincetown over 40 years ago, died on Feb. 22, 2021 at home. He was 78.
Born in Belleville, N.J., in 1942, he graduated from Belleville High School and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Germany. After his discharge, Bill attended the Art Students League in New York City, where he studied with Robert Brackman, Robert Beverly Hale, and Vaclav Vytlacil.
He and fellow artist Steve Toomey came from New York to Provincetown to study with Henry Hensche at the Cape Cod School of Art. Here, a world of natural wonder and artistic expression opened to him. To support himself, he began working for Sal and Josephine Del Deo at Sal’s Place, first as a busboy, and then for many years as a waiter. As a member of the crew at Sal’s, Bill formed many lasting friendships.
He found inspiration in the dunes and natural landscape surrounding Provincetown. He often painted a scene at different times of day on separate canvases to emphasize how light variations could change the tone and appearance of the same view.
Bill’s paintings have been shown at the Davis Gallery in Wellfleet, the Wichita Center for the Arts, the Cambridge Art Association, the Cape Cod Art Association, the Viridian Artists in New York, the Norwich Arts Council (now Norwich Arts Center) in Connecticut, the Provincetown Group Gallery, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Most recently, his paintings were shown at the Captain’s Daughters in Provincetown.
For over 20 years, Bill worked at Dunes Edge Campground as an assistant manager and night watchman. The friends he made remained in touch with “Wild Bill” long after his retirement.
Miriam Collinson, former owner of the campground, said Bill communicated with people all over the world as a ham radio enthusiast.
Among his closest friends were his brothers at the Beachcombers Club. His importance to the club cannot be overstated. Beachcomber Paul Schulenburg said, “I think of Bill von der Heydt as the heart of the club. Not the whole heart, but a big part of it. He leaves an empty space where for so long we could rely on his kindness, patience, and diligence.”
Bill was reserved and rarely talked about his family in New Jersey or anything about himself, said Eric Andresen, a longtime friend.
“His nature was so shy that, had he lived anywhere else, his passing would have gone by totally unnoticed,” said Sal Del Deo. “But here in Provincetown, his passing is of the utmost importance to the artists and equally so to all his friends. We’ll never see his likes again.”
“He was a bulwark and a mainstay of the club,” said Beachcomber Peter Romanelli.
Bill is survived by his close friend Collinson, by his fellow Beachcombers, and other friends.
A proud patriot, Bill will be buried with full military honors in the National Cemetery in Bourne at a date to be announced.
To share a memory or leave a message of condolence, visit the guestbook at gatelyfuneralservice.com.