CHARLESTON, S.C. Famed blacksmith Philip Simmons, whose wrought iron gates and other works grace gardens and entryways along the South Carolina coast and beyond U.S. borders, died at age 97, friends and funeral officials said Tuesday.
Simmons, who created more than 500 pieces during more than half a century at the forge, died in his sleep at a retirement home Monday night, Harleston-Boags Funeral Home director Gippon Boags said.
A memorial service will be held later this week, followed by a funeral Saturday at St. John's Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston, where Simmons was an usher, said pastor Ron Satterfield.
"He saw things that we didn't see and translated that into his hands," Satterfield said. "Sheer humility and sheer joy, he appreciated every moment."
Born in 1912, Simmons began work as a blacksmith by putting shoes on horses as a young man in Charleston and moved into decorative ironwork by the mid- to late 1930s. His acclaimed pieces include one that hangs in the Smithsonian Institution.
Other works among his most prominent included the symbolic gates to the city outside the Charleston Visitor's Center and a piece at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia.
His numerous awards include the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and induction into the South Carolina Hall of Fame. He also received the Order of the Palmetto, the state's highest civilian award.
In 2007, Simmons' modest home and workshop were named one of the nation's most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
"He's left a lot of work to be cherished," said Rossie Colter, director of The Philip Simmons Foundation. "The loss is not having his face around ... not having him relaying words of wisdom. We will always have him around because we can see and touch his works."
A memorial service for Simmons is planned Friday at St. John's Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston. Funeral services are planned for Saturday.