Philip John Saraf

Tributes~Philip John Saraf

Philip John Saraf
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Date of Birth: 
April 23 1930
Date of Death: 
June 9 2016

Philip Saraf, was a well-known Savannah artist and chef, beloved brother, uncle, cousin, mentor and friend. Uncle Philip passed away peacefully June 9, 2016, at Hospice House in Savannah, surrounded by family and friends. He was 86 years of age. The Mass of Christian Burial was held June 14 in St. James Catholic Church.

Phillip John Saraf was born April 23, 1930 in Savannah, Georgia, the second child and first son of George A. Saraf and Mary Gannam. He was baptized on June 8, 1930 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Philip lost his hearing at a very early age, so school was difficult for him. He attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and graduated the same year as his sister, Mary Ann (see photo below). He attended Benedictine High School for a while and later attended vocational school where he trained to be a licensed dental technician. Philip did amazing work crafting crowns, bridges and dentures and worked in dental labs in Atlanta, Albany, and Savannah for 47 years.

Philip's first attempt at painting was when he was working in Atlanta. Largely self-taught, he experimented with a variety of media - oil, acrylic and watercolor - but watercolor was his favorite. He liked chickens and included them in his paintings with rural settings. From these humble beginnings, Philip's paintings now grace the walls of most, if not all, of his siblings, nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, friends and acquaintances, and all those who purchased paintings from him through the years. Philip painted from the heart and saw beauty in the world around him. His paintings elevate the mundanity of everyday life to art, capturing moments in time - simpler times far away from our fast-paced world. When describing the stories behind his art, he would sometimes remark: "Since I am deaf, I hear with my eyes."

His paintings have been featured at art festivals, galleries and exhibits around the south. In 2010, his painting entitled “Grandmother Comin’ Home”, was chosen to be part of the Art Center of Coastal Georgia’s “Treasures from the Telfair II” exhibit in the Greer Gallery.

Philip was a giver and generous to a fault. Anyone who knew him well, knew never to express how much they liked one of his paintings, an item in one of his many collections, a serving dish or any other object in his home, lest he part with a prized possession and force you to take it home with you. He loved to be with people - to feed them with the beauty of his paintings, his stories, and the epicurean delights he created from scratch in his kitchen.

Philip was a teacher and a mentor, always ready to share his knowledge and love for painting, cooking and life with anyone who showed an eagerness to learn or listen. He was a deeply religious man - a devout Catholic - always thankful for the simple joys in life and the richness and beauty of God's creation. Philip was a kind and gentle soul and believed that every day was a gift from God.

Phillip is survived by his sisters: Phylis Tabakian McShane, Antoinette Kastensmidt, Mary Ann Fischer, Rose Tootle, and Iris Smith and her husband David; his brothers and their spouses: George and Nell Saraf and Antoine and Beth Saraf; 25 nephews and nieces, and too many great and great great nephews and nieces to count!

The photographs and newspaper clippings below trace Philip's life from a babe on his mother's knee sitting beside his sister Phyllis, to his schools years at Sacred Heart Catholic School and graduation day, to the family photo taken a couple of years before his father was murdered on June 13, 1941; to his tiny kitchen in downtown Savannah, to Philip with his mother Mary and seven siblings at Ft. Screven in 1985, to his niece her children and Steve circa 1986, to a more recent photo with his siblings. We found an audio recording of an interview with Philip from November 1992 and put it on with images.

Below is a poem written about and for Philip.

To Philip

A Portrait of a friend, I give to you
Whose kindness to others often costs,
Yet his hidden strength endures
And the harmonies of life are not lost.

A lover of horses, my friend Philip.
His life is a maze of interesting things.
A Poet, an Artist, a gentle man,
A cook, a Sheik with a heart that sings.

Touched by sadness and darkling years,
He has beauty of Soul and a loving heart.
Devoted and steeped in the Love of God,
And deeply rooted in his world of Art.

Discernment of beauty of sights and Scenes,
He transmits his thoughts to mortals like me.
And I who listen, stand refreshed
Engulfed in the sea of Reverie.

Adored by the ladies, both young and old,
He wines them and dines them, so replete.
Philip so gallant and lovely to know
Is my adorable Sheik of Harris Street.

(one of the adoring) Kathleen

Place of Birth: 
Savannah, Georgia, United States
Place of Death: 
Savannah, Georgia, United States
Primary State of Residence: 
Savannah, Georgia, United States

Comments (14)

He understood the true meaning of life. It was always about other people. He was loving, unselfish. Always giving to others, and received all of us unconditionally. He will never be forgotten. RIP Uncle Philip!

Philip, you have always been a great brother to me and a man of love, compassion, and peace. Many of your beautiful paintings are in my home and I think of you every time I gaze at them. God gifted you with a great talent, and you used it well and have brought joy and appreciation for the memories they bring. I know you were received with open arms by mom and daddy as you entered your heavenly home. All of your family and friends love you and will never forget you.

Philip was an extraordinary person with the gift of seeing beauty in the most common and simple things around him. He was a true artist with a unique appreciation of life, nature, and family. Upon my reflection of meeting him for the first time over 40 years ago, his sense of values and gratitude, which was so vibrant and real, has always caused me to pause and be grateful too. What a blessing!

Farewell, Dear Friend. A generous, caring, wonderful friend for over 45 yrs…I will miss our outings: our Southern food “roadside dives”, our painting adventures, our phone chats,and Philip’s special hot pepper jelly and brittle bread..He loved the trees, the flowers(especially zinnias)..the shacks on the side of the road…his chickens.Ohhh….that wonderful humor..”.We had laughs, we had fun…We had Seasons in the Sun…”. Helen and Murray Marshall

I have known Philip for over 30 yrs.---he was a kind loving person, who loved his family and loved collecting interesting things--his home was always most interesting. He was a gifted talented artist and leaves behind a wonderful legacy. He will be missed--my sympathy to his family and friends---treasure your wonderful memories--
Carl Martin

I am so sorry to see of Philips' passing. I will miss his Personal Painted Christmas cards. I have previous ones on my wall at my home. He painted a picture of my farm. A very talented man. Rest in Peace Philip.
Libby Heidt - Springfield, GA

Goodbye dear friend. You touched my life with your kind and loving spirit like no other person has. I remember our travels fondly, your art, your pepper jelly, your christmas cards, your love. Rest in Peace Philip. You are missed.

Philip was a beautiful artist and a beautiful man. We will miss him but his memory will be preserved in all his paintings throughout Savannah and all over the globe. People will look at his amazing artworks and smile and remember Philip. Dina Burke

Rest in peace, Uncle Phillip. You will be remembered forever not just in your art, but in the hearts of all you touched with your friendship, compassion, kindness, and generosity.
Love, Kim

Uncle Phillip, you gave this world more than you ever took. A selfless man always willing to help anyone ,even strangers. I will not only miss you but will forever hold on to your legacy of life, and the character of what matters in this world, Love, Trust and faith in our Lord. We enjoyed may wonderful times together and I will forever hold on to the life's gifts you gave to me. Johnny

I will greatly miss the kind and gentle spirit of Mr. Philip. I always enjoyed talking to him and occasionally bringing him fresh peas from the garden. Becky Davis - Ellabell, GA

Its sad to see Philip go but it was hard to see him suffer. He was devoted to his Catholic faith. His art-work revealed his gentle heart. May the good Lord welcome him. Egan

Uncle Philip, I will always cherish the memories I have of our trips to the country to paint when I was a child. Unfortunately, I wasn't blessed with your talent! You were a kind and gentle man and you will be missed. May you rest in peace.

Uncle Phillip was always kind to everyone and would give you the shirt off his back. I still have a fossilized megalodon tooth that Uncle Phillip gave me because I thought it was cool. People meant more to him than his possessions. Uncle Phillip was generous in encouraging creative pursuits. I remember when he bought Ashley and me tons of paint and art supplies when we were interested in painting; that couldn't have been inexpensive! Rest in peace Uncle Phillip. Christopher

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