Josef Day » Josef Day

Josef Day

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Who was Josef D'Heygers? 

Josef D'Heygers was Mater Dei's caretaker from 1956 until his passing in April 2010.  He emigrated to the U.S. from his native Belgium and lived humbly here on campus adopting Mater Dei as his family. Countless alumni, lifetime parents, grandparents and friends of Mater Dei knew Josef and had special memories of who he was and what he did for Mater Dei. 
 
Josef's life is a true model of Mater Dei's core values of Honor, Glory and Love. It is so important to us as a community that we keep his legacy alive, honor him, and tell his story. 
 
What is Josef Day and when is this year's event?
We inaugurated Josef Day on April 17, 2019 (Josef's birthday) to ensure that current and future generations of Monarchs know about this incredible member of the Mater Dei family. 

Josef Day 2022 will be observed on Friday, April 8.  We'll journey with Josef throughout the Lenten Season. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, we'll have weekly prayers focused on Josef's life as well as special videos on Monarch television. We challenge all Monarchs to #LiveLikeJosef. 
 
In addition to this special day, our legacy society, Josef's Legacy Guild, was named to recognize Josef as one of the founding donors of our estate giving program. CLICK HERE to learn more. 
 

“What a sweet man he was! I remember him and his cat.”

- Roe Park ‘99

“Loved Josef, always at the Edinger gate to greet us.”

- Michelle Pilon Sanchez ‘88

“So pleased with this and how Mater Dei took care of him. Loved seeing him every day.”

- Sheila Urlab ‘79

“Belgium is my birth country, I used to speak Flemish (national language of Belgium; not French like many think!) with Josef during my time at Mater Dei. He was a great man!”

- Werner Raes ‘70

“I have a fun story to share….Josef caught my brother (Eric “The Heckler” Winter) and his friends (Seamus Callanan and Rob Ball) in a harmless senior prank with the Class of 1976. He busted them trying to nab the Bob’s Big Boy statue with the intent of setting him up in the quad. Josef got the officers to let the guys as long as they returned Bob to his post at our post-game favorite place to hang out!”

- Barbara Winter Martin ‘79

"I loved always seeing Josef when we were at school. He made it feel like you had family here and it was not just a school you attended. He always had a smile on his face. I am glad to see that he witnessed the naming of the clock tower in his honor. So many times, those we honor pass before they have a chance to know how truly they were revered."

- Marisa Winch '96

"Josef was a constant presence for us, and most especially those of us who were involved in activities after school....in the 70's as most Monarchs wee. I have such fond memories of staying late into the night for drill team practice with Miss Davis and then Gail Milby '70. If we walked out to our cars at 9:30 p.m., there was Josef to make sure we got into our cars safely. He watched over us like a sweet European uncle. I never understood a word he said....but we all knew that whatever it was, he was saying something wise and protective.  He never scolded or scared us; he simply made sure we were safe and had what ever we needed.  (And we learned not to walk on floors he had just cleaned! Ha!) Thanks for paying tribute.  He was a survivor, a servant of God and MD, and a remarkable man. 
- Mackie Saba Cardoos '73

Teacher, St. Joseph School, Santa Ana  

"I graduated in 1972 and knew him well. A few of us would bring our lunch and have lunch with him in his trailer. He is a beautiful soul."
- Sandra Lujan '72

"I love this tribute to a wonderful man who used to sit with me after rehearsals until my ride came to pick me up or open a door for me when I left something behind. He truly is the best of example of Mater Dei."
- Anne McNiff Gaeta '80

"He was the kindest man who never taught a class, but taught so many incredible lessons!"
- Eva Wysocki Schulte '89

"A very kind, gentle, intelligent man with an incredible work ethic. Josef loved the students and faculty. He was always there to lend a helping hand. I was at MD for 45 years as a student and a teacher. I adored this loving man."
- Gail Milby '70

"My favorite memory of Josef came 30 years after graduation. We were just starting to set up the 30 year reunion for the Class of '66 in the old gym, when the power grid for the entire West Coast went down around 3 - 3:30 pm. At first we didn't know the extent of the problem and thought electricity would be restored quickly, surely before our 6 pm start time. As the afternoon went on, we started to learn the extent of the problem, and our confidence was fading. At this point, Josef came to me and asked if we wanted some candles. I said sure and he said come with me, we'll hunt some down. Who would know better where candles were kept on campus? Hint...look in the chapel."

- Jim Marzo '66

"I remember Josef always working so hard around campus. His tiny and frail body pulling a heavy trolley full of chairs or tables to set up for the next student event, and always with a smile. I’m so glad that my daughter, a freshman at MD this year, has the opportunity to learn more about this wonderful man who made such a lasting impact on my life as well as others. May his memory and legacy continue to live on."
- Noelani Middenway Solomon ‘00

"Josef's presence on campus was something I will never forget about Mater Dei. He was a huge supporter of the soccer program and it didn't matter if we won CIF or lost....he was always there to support us. What a great man!"
- Jason Smallwood '97

"I recall visiting Josef, with another friend or two, in his "trailer" while attending MD.  He was such an unassuming humble man.  Years later, my dad and I walked to MD from his home to get Homecoming football game tickets. While on campus I was showing my dad around. He and mom had put 5 of us kids through MD a couple decades earlier. Josef was looking out his window in his apartment. He saw us looking to his second floor window and waved for us to come up. We visited for about an hour, looking at photo albums and such. He didn't remember who I was, but could not have been more friendly. I was amazed to hear that he had donated his well-invested money to our -- his and my -- school. Such a class act. I still often think of Josef and his humble overseeing of MD." 
- Tom Trunk '68