Mark Heischmidt is very talented and creative, seemingly in any endeavor he undertakes. He taught art and English in the St. Elmo schools to all ages before retiring after a career of 34 years.
As an interior decorator, he has lent his talent and touch to Mary Ann’s Restaurant’s walls and also to friends’ homes.
An artist, he likes to paint scenic landscapes, and he drew the illustration for cover of “Living the Dream," a historical fiction novel written by Barry A. Coughlin.
In yet another field, he creates varied flower arrangements as a designer at Main Street Flowers and Gifts. Creating beautiful works of art in another form, his hobby is woodworking.
He credits his mother for his artistic abilities and for the inspiration to make art not only his life’s work, but also his relaxation (along with enjoying having coffee with friends at Mary Ann’s restaurant, which he does daily).
He also enjoys traveling here and there with his wife, Jennie Ann, the area’s popular veterinarian and active community business person.
A Hometown Boy
Mark grew up and attended school in St. Elmo. One of several children, he was the only one born in Vandalia.
“Mother normally went to Effingham to have her babies. There were seven of us, but the hospital there had burned, so I ended up over in Vandalia,” he said. “We lived on a dairy farm, east on U.S. Route 40, about three miles out."
His mother and father were both teachers. His father taught fifth and sixth grades at Loudon, and was also the principal there until it closed. They then moved into St. Elmo, where he taught the remainder of his years. His mother taught in St. Elmo until she retired.
“After High School,” he said, “ I went to Lake Land College, majored in art and got an associate’s degree there. Then I went to Eastern Illinois and got my master’s degree in art education.”
He began teaching art in Cisne, and he also traveled to and taught in three different communities in the Johnsonville, area for about four years,
“Then the art job at St. Elmo opened up and, at the same time, my wife, who had graduated and had been working at Flora at two different veterinary clinics, had the opportunity to work in Effingham. I applied for the job here and got it, so we lived in Effingham for five years.
Jennie Ann decided to open a clinic in St. Elmo, so they moved to St. Elmo to stay.
Artistic Creativity & Talent
“I have always been interested in drawing. My mother was very talented and I got a lot of her talent,” Mark said.
“And I was always interested in being creative with different things. I was always tinkering around, trying to put things together as a child, when I had the time. I didn’t have a lot of time. Because of the cattle, I was busy,” he said, “but I would have to say my mother inspired me.”
About the attractive décor in Mary Ann’s Restaurant, he modestly said, “In art school, a lot of classroom time is learning what works and what doesn’t, how to put things together, where things should go and when you want to break the rules, how to break the rules … and that’s where the creativity comes in,” he said.
He said that Daphne, Mary Ann’s daughter-in-law, had put together the apple theme in the north room, and she suggested a chef’s theme for the south room walls.
He picked up items here and there and put them together. He made and finished the shelves used in the display. He also considers what you can do without spending a whole lot of other people’s money.
The result is attractive, cheerful wall décor, with enough items and pictures to be colorful and interesting, but not with a cluttered, busy look.
His creativity is equally coveted and appreciated in the flower arrangements in his job as designer at the flower and gift store. There, he works with many various shapes, colors and textures in different artistic forms, creating arrangements pleasing and comforting to the senses.
“I really enjoy working in the flower shop, because people come in and if they don’t find exactly what they want, they tell me, ‘This is what I’m looking for,’ and it gives me a whole list of challenges,” he said.
“I sometimes have to go on the hunt to find just the right thing, the right flowers or different things, to put in the arrangements.
“The flower shop is a neat place to work. Sometimes it gets to be quite a bit of creative competition (among the designers), and it is a lot of fun,” he said, laughing.
“I enjoyed teaching, with the kids and their creativity,” he said.
He cited some students who had gone on in the field for their careers.
One student works for an architect, and she actually drew up plans for buildings in Southern Illinois. Another became a graphic designer and works for different companies. Others have not followed through with careers in the field, but have shared with him that they enjoyed his class and use what they have learned as form of relaxation, being creative on their own.
“Probably some of my most frustrating times have been when I could see a student was so very talented, with an overabundance of natural talent, and you know they could really do big things,” Mark said.
“You talk and talk, trying to talk them into doing things, but, of course, I know that they have to live their own lives. I just hope they will keep that and use it for their own enjoyment.”
Color Him Retired
Mark retired from teaching, but, in his fourth year of retirement, finds himself still keeping busy.landscaping at home, working at the flower shop, woodworking, trying to get some things done at home, and when Jennie Ann calls for help at the vet clinic, lending a helping hand there, “But I try to stay out of there,” he said.
Jennie Ann tries to give him “his time,” from when he wakes up until about 9:30 a.m.
“That’s kind of my time, which I spend here in the coffee shop,” Mark said. “It’s an every-morning occurrence when some of us meet and have a good time. Then, our days begin.
He and Jennie Ann knew each other in St. Elmo, but didn’t begin dating until they were in college. They married about the time of living in Cisne.
They have two children, a daughter, Lauren, who is in law school, and a son, Blake, who is attending school at Harrisburg, studying coal-mining technology. When he graduates from Harrisburg, he plans to attend a two-year Capstone Program at Southern and graduate with a mining and mineral technology degree.
As to Mark’s future plans, “I don’t really have any, except Jennie Ann keeps me traveling. She has the wanderlust once in a while, and we’ve been able to do a lot of traveling. She has a couple of trips planned for this summer,” he said.
The Heischmidt household also has a cat, “Mickey” (Michelanglo), a golden retriever named “Shakespeare,” who was found along a road abandoned along with its mother and a sibling; Blake brought one of the puppies home.
All in all, it seems like Mark has lived a fulfilling, productive and contented life, using his natural talents and doing what he loves best, that of creating beautiful things and inspiring others, while also adding beauty to their lives.