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Downtown Salisbury mourns loss of popular street artist

Joseph Heilig passed away on Saturday
On Monday night there were flowers placed on that bench and a hand-painted sign with angel wings carried the message “RIP Joe.”
Published: May. 31, 2022 at 6:36 AM EDT
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - Joseph Heilig’s studio was the sidewalk.

Every day he sat on a bench in front of Fuller’s Market on South Main Street in Salisbury, working on his drawings and taking the time to speak with anyone who wanted a conversation.

On Monday night there were flowers placed on that bench and a hand-painted sign with angel wings carried the message “RIP Joe.” According to a friend, Joseph Heilig, 65, passed away at the hospital on Saturday night.

“I’m overwhelmed with a level of sadness that I would not have anticipated because joe was such a part of my experience of being the owner of a store in downtown Salisbury,” said Alissa Redmond of South Main Book Company. “He was the face of Main Street, so and you don’t get people like that every generation…he was that person for us.”

“So sorry to hear of his death! May he Rest In Peace!” Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander posted on a WBTV social media page.

“He was a very talented man! So gifted! I always enjoyed stopping by & talking with Joe!” said Susan Beeker. “Rest In Peace Joseph Heilig!”

“Joe always had a kind word for me as I patrolled downtown,” wrote retired Salisbury Police Officer Lynn Foster. “Rest In Peace my friend. I will miss you.”

“Oh no!! I’m so shocked,” wrote another well-known local artist, Cherathee Hager. “Joe was one of those rare individuals who never met a stranger. He was beyond amazing as an artist and even more so as a kind soul. I have known him for years but we became close friends when I started painting storefront windows in Downtown Salisbury. I always welcomed his visits and enjoyed looking at his current artwork. There will always be a huge empty space in our little city and no one will be able to ever fill his big shoes. I certainly hope his family preserves his artwork and that our city finds a location to share it with everyone to enjoy for years to come. RIP my friend.”

In a WBTV story from several years ago, Heilig said he grew up in the Queensbridge housing project of Long Island City, N.Y. He attended art school in New York. Heilig moved to Salisbury, his mother’s hometown, in 1999. He’s been a familiar sight in downtown Salisbury for at least 10 years.

A GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses can be found here.

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