From the Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 10/23/1997:
Omer Westendorf, 81, updated sacred music He started library, publishing firm
On leave in Holland during World War II, Omer Westendorf heard something that would change his life and influence Roman Catholic liturgy in the United States. It was the sound of contemporary harmonies coming from the choir lofts of Dutch churches.
At the time, choirs such as the one at St. Bonaventure Church in Fairmount, where Mr. Westendorf had been choir director and organist, used traditional music and Latin lyrics. When Mr. Westendorf returned, he founded the World Library of Sacred Music to import church music from Europe.
His business soon expanded to publish contemporary music with English texts for use in American churches. In 1955, Mr. Westendorf published The Peoples Hymnal, the first volume of English-language hymns available in this country.
He died Wednesday in his Covedale home at 81.
"He often laughed about how his music publishing company really existed in his garage, and anyone who visited his 'office' was often surprised to find a wide range of sheet music in various stages of disarray," said the Rev. Virgil C. Funk, president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. The association has honored Mr. Westendorf as the Pastoral Musician of the Year and as a major contributor to the development of liturgical music.
His interest in vernacular music paralleled the changes that resulted in the Second Vatican Council and a switch from the Latin Mass to English. The Rev. Clarence Rivers was pastor of St. Joseph Church in the West End at the time and worked with Mr. Westendorf to publish compositions.
"Just to sing English hymns at a Latin Mass was a revolution in itself," said Father Rivers, whose work incorporated African-American influences in church music. "Omer may be said to be the one man who, although unacknowledged, laid the basis for the restoration of the liturgy in English in terms of music."
When the Mass was first celebrated in English in 1964, Mr. Westendorf had a 10-year advantage over other music publishers, and he put out The Peoples Mass Book that year as the others scrambled to catch up. He also wrote hymn texts for some of the best-known recent Catholic music, including "Gift of Finest Wheat" and "Where Charity and Love Prevail."
Mr. Westendorf continued his work as an organist and choir director and led the Bonaventure Choir, a nationally known concert and recording group that performed much of the music he released. J.S. Paluch Co. of Chicago bought World Library Publications in 1972.
"He greatly impacted Catholic church music throughout the country, because of importing sacred music, publishing and encouraging, and his own hymn text," said Betty Zins Reiber, a 40-year employee of World Library now at Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenhills. "He was extremely creative, and I really felt fortunate to work with him."
Mr. Westendorf is survived by a daughter, Monica, of Columbus, and two sons, Kirk and Randy, both of Covedale.
Services are pending.