Charlottesville, Va.–Frances Elizabeth Gibson Loose, who bought Tuel Jewelers in 1975 and operated it with her two daughters for decades, died Friday. She was 86.
Born Frances Elizabeth Gibson on June 13, 1931, in Charlottesville, Virginia, she was the daughter of Nellie Mary and Arthur Gibson.
She graduated high school in 1950 and went to night school for bookkeeping at Jefferson Business School.
She worked the candy counter at McCrory’s Five and Dime and did sales and fashion merchandising at Diana Shops before landing a job in 1953 as the bookkeeper at Tuel Jewelers, the Charlottesville store that watchmaker and jeweler Roy P. Tuel opened in 1945. Though hired to keep the books, she soon began assisting the watchmakers with materials and fitting parts.
Loose learned the business from the ground up, and in 1975, she bought the store and ran it with her daughters, Mary and Frieda, and, later, her grandsons Hunter and Tyler.
She engraved and restrung pearls until she broke her wrist and waited on customers at Tuel Jewelers until Parkinson’s disease prevented her from walking on her own. Yet she still came to work every day, dressed for business and with a smile on her face, greeting customers from her desk.
Tuel Jewelers owner Frances Elizabeth Gibson Loose, who was also known as “Mom Tuel” and “Queen of the Mall”
The local newspaper, The Daily Progress, described Loose as a “beloved downtown businesswoman” whose store is a staple of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall; her obituary stated that one of her nicknames was “Queen of the Mall,” in addition to “Mom Tuel.”
Outside of the jewelry industry, Loose was a member of Beta Sigma Phi, Credit Women International, the Apple Harvest Festival (now the Dogwood Festival), the Albemarle Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion Auxiliary, the Downtown Business Association and the Downtown Business Alliance.
Tuel Jewelers remained closed Monday and Tuesday and is set to reopen Wednesday. The store’s answering machine tell customers that: “We plan on serving you for many years to come.”
Loose is survived by two daughters, Mary Loose DeViney (John) and Frieda Loose-Wagner (Michael); two grandsons, Hunter and Tyler; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, Hermann, who died last year; three brothers, William, Luther and Verley Gibson; and one sister, Louise Haney.
Services took place Monday in Charlottesville and Keswick.
In addition to flowers, contributions can be made in Loose’s name to Grace Episcopal Church-Cismont, P.O. Box 43, Keswick, Virginia 22947.