For years, Charles West and Ronald Simmons had a routine.

West, 61, would get off work and sit on the steps of 1300 S. Harmony St. in his Grays Ferry neighborhood, while he sipped his coffee and waited for his longtime friend, Simmons, 56, who would join him with a beer and his radio.

There, practically every day, the two would smoke, listen to music, wave at passersby, shout out hellos, and lecture the young guys idling on the corners.

Now a makeshift memorial rests in their place.

Around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, West and Simmons were on their usual corner, chatting, when bullets claimed their lives.

Police said at least nine shots were fired. West was hit in the right side, and Simmons was shot in the head. Police are still investigating, but believe neither man was the intended target.

"They didn't deserve to die like this," said Diana Seidle, 44, as she lit two candles at the memorial of Teddy bears, flowers, a mug of coffee and a can of Coors Light.

Many neighbors describe the place they call "the bottom" as quiet and close-knit. Seidle, like many here, said she'd known the men for years.

"Ron was the mayor around here," said her husband, Andre Wiley, 36, who worked with him for years at a nearby soul-food restaurant, before it closed down. "So I guess that made West the governor. I just can't believe it. . . . You just always expect to see these two smiling faces there."

Simmons, Wiley said, was a family man, who always put his two children first.

West, the neighborhood handyman, once worked at the post office and for SEPTA, and was getting his life together after battling drugs for a number of years.

"He had no problem telling the young people out here about it," said a teary-eyed Seidle. "He lived it, and that's why he sat on this corner, trying to keep them out of trouble. He'd tell them that drugs weren't they way to go."

Many neighbors recalled his "words of wisdom:"

This is your neighborhood, keep it clean. Respect women. Respect the neighborhood. Stop being hard-headed.

"He'd tell these guys there's something better out here," said Glenn, who would give only his last name, standing across the street from the memorial. "They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's heartbreaking."

"He was one of the best people in this neighborhood," said Anthony Cilberti, 64, of nearby Tony D's restaurant, where West sometimes did odd jobs. "He'd do anything for anybody," including helping kids with their homework or using his truck as a moving van.

The neighborhood struggles with its losses.

"It's senseless, just senseless," said Seidle. "To get to be that age and have to be gunned down. It just doesn't make any sense."

Contact staff writer Kia Gregory at 215-854-2601 or kgregory@phillynews.com

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