WATERLOO, Iowa --- Harvey Hess was a brilliant poet and librettist. He was an educator and a learned man.
Above all else, he was a gentle soul.
That's how family, friends and colleagues will remember Hess. He died Wednesday at age 73. His funeral was today at Trinity Episcopal Church.
"I loved him. He was truly a Renaissance man," said Jeff Copeland, head of the department of languages and literature at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
"He was sensitive and generous to a fault. Some people took advantage because they mistook his kindness for weakness, but it was one of his greatest strengths."
Hess, a long-time Courier art critic, was an adjunct instructor at UNI for 15 years. He also previously taught at Hawkeye Community College.
Classically educated, Hess was a polymath --- someone who has far-ranging knowledge of many subjects, including literature, music, poetry, dance, art, creative writing, theology and philosophy.
His haiku can be found in the Newberry Library of Chicago, the Bodelian Library at the University of Oxford in England, and he's one of the few Western haiku poets whose work is found in libraries in Japan.
A noted librettist, Hess composed five operas, concert arias, song cycles and a piece for the millennium project of the National Endowment for the Arts and American Composer's Forum with colleague/composer Jerre Tanner. Their work has been performed by U.S. and European symphony orchestras and recorded by the Prague Chamber Orchestra, Moravian Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra, among others.
He received an Arts Oceania lifetime achievement award for his contribution to Hawaiian lyric poetry, lyric theater, education, aesthetics and art criticism, and a community service award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center of HCC.
"He was a great guy and a very deep thinker, and he was a warm man with a gentle heart --- one in a million. I'll miss him," said George F. Day, UNI professor emeritus.
Hess savored the world, said UNI Professor Emeritus Barbara Lounsberry.
"He loved the beauty of Iowa and Hawaii and Japan, and he celebrated them in his matchless haiku poems. It was such a joy to sit over a Chinese dinner --- he would order countless dishes for us to try --- and hear his thoughts range from haiku to Herodotus, from 'The Tale of Genji' to 'The Tale of Two Cities.'"
Waterloo Center for the Arts Director Cammie Scully said he was a "man with a big heart and inexhaustible energy to learn. Everything he said was spurred by great creativity and deep thought. He was very well respected in the arts and culture and education communities."
A fan of Iowa writer Ruth Suckow, Hess presented a paper June 9 at the annual Suckow Association meeting in Cedar Falls.
Hess was constantly encouraging, added long-time friend artist Roger Bartlett.
"He always sent letters and notes that included his haiku. He always spoke in superlatives about my work, and we shared an interest in Christian faith. He was sensitive and gave from the heart. He was my dear friend."