Master blacksmith Jim Brown was known to say blacksmith shops were the community hubs of old towns, the gathering place where people came together. Often, the prosperity of a town depended on its blacksmith shop.
"When the anvil rings, it's the heartbeat of most towns," he said.
Brown, a master blacksmith for more than 40 years and a Grove City resident who was a driving force behind the building of the historic Augenstein-Spillman Blacksmith Shop at Century Village at Fryer Park, died Dec. 14, after a long illness. He was 60.
"We lost a good friend," Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said at the Grove City Council meeting on Dec. 16. "He will be missed. ... He worked so hard on that thing."
Friends and family staged an open house celebration of his life Dec. 22 at Fryer Park, 3899 Orders Road.
Originally, Brown designed and built a mobile forge, the Iron Mule Blacksmith Shop, and traveled to art events, historical reenactments and festivals and trade shows throughout Ohio and surrounding states before working with Grove City and the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society to establish a permanent location at Century Village.
The blacksmith shop at Century Village was dedicated at Grove City's Old-Time Harvest Day Oct. 6, the culmination of years of effort between the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society and Grove City, said Ed Merritt, Grove City Parks and Recreation Department recreation superintendent.
"Jim's vision, along with ours, is to make this a living tribute," Merritt said. "He worked incredibly hard ... (but) he wasn't able to benefit from all this hard work."
Because of Brown's expertise, Parks and Recreation was planning to offer several teen and adult blacksmith courses to be taught by Brown. With Brown's passing, those classes have been canceled for now. Merritt said the city eventually will look for a replacement instructor, but there is currently no timeframe of when that will be.
Merritt said Brown had the perfect mix of teacher and craftsman.
"He had the ability to captivate anyone in the room," Merritt said. "I don't know if we'll ever be able to replace him."
Joan Eyerman of the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society said Brown had lots of stories and was committed to the art of blacksmithing.
"He was just really good with the public, and we're going to miss him," she said. "He was good with children. He was good with adults."
Brown's family asked that memorial gifts be made to the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society, 3378-B Park St., Grove City 43123.