Reverend Donald Claude Noel, O. Praem., priest, artist and sculptor age 78, a member of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, Wisconsin and a Norbertine priest, passed into God’s eternal kingdom on November 21, 2008.
Fr. Don was in residence at St. Norbert’s Abbey in De Pere which is near the main offices of the Relevant Radio network. Fr. Noel had been a guest on teh Drew Mariani show. On Drew’s show he discussed his participation in a social experiment where through medications he changed his skin color from white to black. The experiment was inspired by John Howard Griffin’s 1961 book “Black Like Me.” Fr. Don also said evening mass on the network.
The Green Bay Diocese Newspaper The Compass presented an article about Fr. Don:
Art was among Fr. Noel’s passions. In 1983, he opened a studio on Main Street in Green Bay, where he specialized in figurative sculptures. He later moved his Open Sea Sculpture Studio to St. Norbert Abbey.
Fr. Noel took a historical approach to sculpting. In 1987, he began designing a statue of Jesuit Fr. Claude Jean Allouez, who founded St. Francis Xavier mission in De Pere in 1671. For forensic sculpting accuracy, Fr. Noel received permission to exhume the remains of Fr. Allouez, who is buried in Niles, Mich. He put the project on hold while seeking funds.
In 2001, he completed a facial reconstruction based on the skull of St. Norbert of Xanten. He began the process of reconstructing St. Norbert in May of 1999 when he visited his tomb at Strahov Abbey in Prague, Czech Republic. St. Norbert’s skull was placed on the main altar so Fr. Noel could measure it and reconstruct a copy in clay. He used Japanese calipers to record 55 measurements of the skull.
“He liked to absorb himself in his work,” he said. “He wasn’t afraid of walking on a different street to go beyond the typical Catholic life.”
Norbertine Br. Steve Herro, social concerns director for the Green Bay Diocese, said he will remember Fr. Noel as a “very selfless man.”
“We lived together at one time,” he said. “I was moving down to Jackson (Miss.) and needed somebody to drive the van back. He said, ‘I’ll do it.’ He drove down with me and drove the van back. He liked helping people. He often drove to Fond du Lac on Sunday nights to celebrate Mass at Marian College.
“He also had an uncanny ability to remember things about you,” he added. “He would store it in his mind and ask you about a brother or sister. He cared about people.”
One friend observed, ” He was like St. Joseph to us all.”