WHEN YOU entered Solomon West's home in Mount Airy, you were greeted by a portrait of a man in a Naval uniform.
The subject was Solomon West. And the artist was Solomon West.
Solomon was a man of many talents, a hardworking guy driven by a work ethic that wouldn't quit. Art, especially portrait-painting, was how he relaxed from his career as an electrician, at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Amtrak.
Wherever he went, from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, on which he served in the Navy, to his civilian jobs, Solomon was frequently honored for his dedication to his duties and reluctance ever to take a day off.
Solomon West, whose many interests also included gardening, cooking, winemaking and fishing, all roles that he threw himself into with a passionate dedication to detail, died Friday after a short illness. He was 59 and lived in Mount Airy.
Solomon was born in Leesburg, Ga., the oldest of the four children of Jimmy Albert and Florene West. After moving to Philadelphia, he graduated from Simon Gratz High School in 1974. He was an outstanding soccer player and made the first team All-Public in 1973.
He enlisted in the Navy and served on the Nimitz. He enjoyed his Navy service, and often reminisced about the ports he visited in Italy, North Africa, Israel and Greece, to name a few. His favorite city was Venice.
He married Lorrie Young in 1988, and they settled in Philadelphia. She always called him Saul.
"He showed us what a solid work ethic looked like," said his son, Joshua Solomon West. "He was an electrician extraordinaire, but did not rest on his laurels. He received numerous accolades, awards and letters of recognition for his meticulous and superior work performance, outstanding work ethic, positive attitude and efficacy in the completion of high-priority projects."
Joshua said his father kept some of his honors in a binder, "that we can reflect upon in his absence."
Solomon joined Calvary Episcopal Church in Germantown, where he was baptized in 1990.
"Our Dad was a Christian who walked the walk," said his daughter, Jasmine Deborah Young West. "He showed us unconditional love while still expecting the best of us. We knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he loved our mother and us. There was nothing in this world he would not do for us."
Solomon worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for 18 years as an electrician. He was promoted to a supervisory job where he directed the work of several employees.
After the shipyard closed, he went to work for Amtrak in October 1996. He was there for 19 years, until illness forced him to retire.
"My husband was a passionate, generous man with a dry sense of humor and a beautiful smile," his wife said. "He was a man of few words with remarkable physical and inner strength. He was a man full of grace who rarely spoke ill of anyone."
Solomon taught himself to paint, and gave away his work to family and friends. He specialized in portraits.
He was also known as the "Grill Master." He was the main chef in his household and often cooked for friends at Amtrak. His cinnamon buns were to die for.
Several years ago, he took up winemaking and built an elaborate wine rack to hold his products.
Solomon was the neighborhood handyman, never declining to offer his skills with electricity, carpentry and painting. He also volunteered his talents at his church, Calvary Episcopal.
"Dad was always humble, happy to assist anyone in need and was an eternal optimist," his children said.
After major snowstorms, he would shovel half the neighborhood with his snowplow.
He loved gadgets and amassed an extensive collection of tools over the years.
Solomon was also a music fan. He liked all genres, but his favorite singer was Barry White, the popular singer and songwriter who died in 2003.
Solomon loved to garden, and grew herbs and vegetables every summer. He enjoyed fishing forays into the ocean. "He loved the solitude of the ocean, and being one with nature," his family said.
Besides his wife and children, he is survived by his parents; two sisters, Regina West Robinson and Yvonne Terrell, and a brother, Jimmy A. West Jr.