Stephen Hines, who has died at 68 following a stroke, was an inspirational teacher in his native Yorkshire and an internationally-renowned sculptor whose commissions included a statue of the Madonna and Child for the Vatican.
Entirely self-taught, his artistic talent had been spotted by the nuns who taught him at St Joseph’s School in the Leeds district of Hunslet and inspired him to hitchhike to Italy, where he learnt the “old ways” alongside the masons in the marble quarries of Carrara.
He had left school at 15 to became a French polisher, and later spent three months in the 5th Royal Tank Regiment, before deciding the military was not for him.
Instead, he gained qualifications at night school and attended Keswick Hall College of Education in Norwich, where he met his wife, Margaret. They married in 1974 and he became a schoolteacher, eventually settling in Ossett, where he maintained a home studio.
His commissions included hundreds of sculptures in stone and marble, as well as sandblasts. His piece Leodis, produced for the opening of the St. John’s Centre in Leeds, depicted the history of the city. More recently he completed a memorial called Victims of War, to the people of Leeds who were hit during the Second World War.
He exhibited at the Royal Academy, Leeds Playhouse, Wakefield Cathedral, Christie’s and Covent Garden in London, Scone Palace in Scotland, and at Expo 88 in Brisbane, Australia.
His biggest assignment was the 12ft Millennium of the West which portrays a mixture of carved characters set amidst a pageant of events which shaped modern history.
Sited off Thorpe Lane in Tingley, near Morley, it was originally designed to be the centrepiece of a hotel and leisure complex. But, he lamented, it never got off the ground, and he was never paid.
He carved it from a block of Morley Bluestone, and noted that had Michelangelo been a Yorkshireman, he would have used it, too.
His Vatican commission came in 1983, and a year later, he was selected to represent Britain at an international symposium on sculpture in Carrara, following which he attended a civic reception at Leeds and was acknowledged by Buckingham Palace and Downing Street for his achievement. He was also recognised in Who’s Who of Art.
After two earlier strokes, he sculpted the 7ft Tree of Life for Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield and a piece for Dewsbury and District Hospital. They were, he said, “payback” for the care he received there.
Tree of Life, which sits within the grounds of Pinderfields, has an organ donation theme which, he hoped, would encourage families to think about using a death to give others the same second chance of life that he had had.
In parallel with his art work, Mr Hines taught at several schools in south Leeds before moving to Morley High School. He spent 14 years teaching English and later running the Learning Support Centre.
He was also was renowned for his love of music and formed a rock and roll band called The Beanz, made up of pupils who remained friends. He produced several charity shows which raised thousands of pounds for the school, and when the old hall burnt down he sculpted Phoenix, which stands in the new foyer.
A keen rugby union player in his day, having played and coached at Morley, he also donated a statue to the memory of John Howe, who had died during a match there.
He is survived by Margaret, children Tonya and Michael and three grandchildren, with a fourth due in March