Wesley W. Emmons Jr., 83, of Center City, a talented craftsman and long-distance runner known as the "jogging jeweler," died of complications from Alzheimer's disease on Monday, May 23, at home.
Since 1964, Mr. Emmons and his wife operated Emmons Jewelers at 16th and Spruce Streets.
During his long career, he made jewelry for Eleanor Roosevelt, Buddy Rich, and a pectoral cross for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He designed an altar piece for Old Zion Church on Broad Street as well as the silver medallion presented to outstanding graduates from his alma mater, the University of the Arts.
His work has been exhibited at the Philadelphia Art Alliance and the Woodmere Gallery, and he was included in the "Touch of Gold" show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1974. A retrospective of his work was exhibited at the University of the Arts in 2004. He received commissions by museums and galleries to restore precious gold and silver pieces.
Mr. Emmons did repairs and appraisals in his shop, where he sold estate jewelry and work of his own design. He also sold works of other jewelers, including his many apprentices and students.
A former apprentice, Donald Pywell, whose work is in the Brandywine River Museum collection, told The Inquirer about working with Mr. Emmons for seven years: "You would start with brass and copper, then work with silver, and finally get to work with gold."
Mr. Emmons took up jogging in his early 40s, inspired by a son, Wesley, an avid runner. At that time, he was working 18 hours a day and teaching, he told Inquirer Magazine interviewer Maralyn Lois Polak. He was also 50 pounds too heavy, smoked two or three packs of cigarettes a day, and drank more than the average person, he said.
He started jogging on an indoor track, worked his way up to 50 to 60 miles a week, and began running in marathons and ultramarathons. He never won, he said: "I'm just the guy who keeps plugging along and finishes."
From 1980 to 1991, he participated in the Edward P. Weston Ultradistance Run, a six-day event along the Cooper River in New Jersey, and designed the buckles given to race finishers. He continued to run until his early 70s.
Mr. Emmons grew up in Maryland. From 1947 to 1949, he served in the Air Force in occupied Japan and developed a lifelong love of Asia, his family said.
After his discharge as a sergeant, he attended the University of Maryland for a year, where he met his future wife, Ellen Kehne.
In 1954, he earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, now the University of the Arts. He taught crafts and jewelry at the school until 1966, and in 1986 he received the alumni association's silver star award. Mr. Emmons also studied at the Barnes Foundation in Merion.
For three years, Mr. Emmons apprenticed on Jeweler's Row in Philadelphia before opening his own shop on Pine Street. He later moved the business to 16th and Spruce.
Despite his achievements, he told The Inquirer Magazine that for 26 years his German mother asked him, "When are you going to give this up and get a job?"
Mr. Emmons kept the sidewalk in front of his shop meticulously clean. Neighbors called him the Mayor of 16th Street, said another son, Hoyt. He was a member of Center City Residents Association and the Center City Proprietors Association, which presented him with a community service award in 2003.
He and his wife often allowed young artists to stay in their living quarters above their shop for weeks to months.
Mr. Emmons attended nearly every performance at the Curtis Institute of Music for almost 30 years and was known to stay up all night finishing a customer's piece while listening to classical music.
Besides his wife of 59 years and sons, Mr. Emmons is survived by four grandchildren.
Friends may call from noon to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. Thursday, followed by a funeral at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 26, at Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 2110 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, 19103.
Donations may be made to the church or to Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia PA 19103 (www.curtis.edu), or to the University of the Arts, c/o the Wesley and Ellen Emmons Scholarship in Jewelry/Metalsmithing, 320 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (www.uarts.edu).