By Michelle Graff
In addition to logging six decades in the jewelry industry, Lawrence (Larry) Congress was a talented pianist, artist and model airplane enthusiast.
Sanibel Island, Fla.--Lawrence (Larry) Congress, who had a career in the jewelry industry that spanned 60 years, died Friday. He was 83.

Born July 31, 1931 in Flint, Mich., Congress’s six-decade career in the industry began right after college when he apprenticed with his brother-in-law Robert (Bob) Freed at Palmer’s Jewelers in Kokomo, Ind. 

Within two years, he purchased Walker’s Jewelers in Elkhart, Ind. and ran the business successfully for more than 20 years. During this time, he met the woman who would become his wife, Dee, while she was running an errand for her father, a competing jeweler named Sam Pliskin. 

The two were married in 1961, and in 1973 moved to Peoria, Ill. to join his brother Bob Congress in operating the fine jewelry departments located within Bergner’s department stores. From there, he joined Seiko Watch Corp. and spent years on the road for the company, earning many awards in this time. 

In 1981 at the age of 50, the family moved to Florida and Congress bought a bike and boat rental business on Sanibel Island. Soon, though, he returned to jewelry and in 1984 his eldest son Scot returned from college to run the rental business so Larry Congress could open Congress Jewelers in Periwinkle Place Shopping Center, where it stands today. 

An avid supporter of the arts, Congress was a charter member of BIG Arts and The Sanibel Music Festival, and started and funded the Congress Jewelers Play Reading Series at Sanibel’s Schoolhouse Theater. 

He was a member of Temple Beth El in Fort Myers, Fla. and Temple Bat Yam in Sanibel. 

He is survived by his three sons, Scot (Melissa); Doug (Melanie); Brad (Colbi); one daughter, Juli Bobman (Stuart); nine grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Dee; brother Bob Congress; and his sister and brother-in-law Fran and Robert Freed, all retail jewelers. 

Services were held Sunday. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to BIG Arts of Sanibel, 900 Dunlop Road, Sanibel Island, FL, 33957.  

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