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Larry Congress

October 1, 2014
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Lawrence (Larry) Congress, 83, of Sanibel Island, Florida, passed away peacefully Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Larry was born in Flint, Michigan, to William and Molly (Zeligman) Congress on July 31, 1931.

His 60-year jewelry career began after he graduated Indiana University in 1953, and apprenticed with his brother-in-law Robert (Bob) Freed at Palmer's Jewelers in Kokomo, Indiana. Within two years, Larry bought Walker's Jewelers located in Elkhart, Indiana, and ran a successful business for more than 20 years.

Larry met his soulmate, Dee, daughter of competing jeweler Sam Pliskin, while she was on an errand for her dad. Larry and Dee, as they were affectionately known, were married in 1961, in Elkhart, Indiana, where they soon started a family. In 1973, Larry and Dee moved to Peoria, Illinois, to join his brother Bob Congress in operating 10-plus fine jewelry departments located within Bergner's Department stores. From there, Larry spent many years on the road with Seiko Watch Corp., where he built many friendships in the jewelry industry. He was a million-dollar writer and earned many awards while with Seiko.

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Larry Congress

In 1981 at age 50, tired of the road and being away from his family, the Congresses moved to Florida to begin a new career. He purchased a bike and boat rental business at Casa Ybel Resort on Sanibel Island, where vacationers soon realized his background in jewelry. Larry and Dee's love for the beach, shells and sunshine inspired a collection of nautical and seashell jewelry made in gold. His first creation was a 14K gold olive shell, his beloved wife Dee's favorite shell.

In 1984, his eldest son Scot returned from college to run the bike and boat business so Dee and Larry could open Congress Jewelers, located in Periwinkle Place Shopping Center, where it still stands today.

Larry's unique talent as an artist resonated in every facet of his life. He was an extraordinary pianist, talented artist, model airplane enthusiast and a unique soul, but he always said his greatest accomplishment was his nine grandchildren.

He was an avid supporter of the arts and a charter member of BIG ARTS and The Sanibel Music Festival, and he also started and funded the Congress Jewelers Play Reading Series at the Schoolhouse Theater on Sanibel. Larry was a member of Temple Beth El, Fort Myers, and Temple Bat Yam of Sanibel.

He is survived by his children Scot (Melissa), Juli Bobman (Stuart), Doug (Melanie), Brad (Colbi); his grandchildren Whitney, Andrew, Dana, Rebecca, Michael, Jennifer, Joshua, Kelsey and Georgia; and many nieces, nephews and cousins. Larry was predeceased by his wife of 47 years "Dee" Congress, sister Fran Freed, brother-in-law Robert Freed and brother Bob Congress, all retail jewelers.

Services and internment were held Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to BIG ARTS of Sanibel, 900 Dunlop Road, Sanibel Island, Florida 33957. A celebration of Larry's life will be held at later date.



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