Jean Harbett Farmer, who ran Kentucky jewelry store Farmer’s Jewelry with her husband for more than 30 years, died Jan. 27 at the age of 92.
Lexington, Ky.—Longtime retailer Jean Harbett Farmer, who helmed Farmer’s Jewelry on her own after the death of her husband in 1989, died Jan. 27.

She was 92 years old.

Born in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, Farmer was the daughter of the late William Tilford and Ethel Griffin Harbett.

She was a graduate of Henry Clay High School and Asbury College and a member of Immanuel Baptist Church.

Her husband, the late William “Bill” Farmer Sr., opened Farmer’s Jewelry in Lexington in 1950.

The two met when Jean, working at a downtown jewelry store at the time, went into Farmer’s to browse for jewelry one day in 1955. She went in to buy a charm and came out with a request from Bill to come work with him during the holiday season.

They turned out to be a match on all accounts; the two married in 1957 and ran Farmer’s Jewelry together for more than 30 years, until Bill’s death in 1989.

Jean then became the matriarch of the business, running it alongside her two children, Bill Farmer Jr. and Kristi Farmer Lykins, both of whom helped around the store from a young age.

Jean told local news in an interview last year that she never considered closing the store after her husband’s passing, and in fact went into the store almost six days a week until health problems kept her from doing so last year.

Farmer’s Jewelry, an American Gem Society and Jewelers of America member store, remains in the same spot where it was founded but with an expanded footprint.

Jean’s son, Bill, told National Jeweler that he and his sister wouldn’t be where they are today in both the industry and the Lexington community without her day-to-day presence.

20190226 Farmer InsertedIn 2017, former Lexington mayor Jim Gray presented Jean Farmer, pictured second from right, with a proclamation to celebrate her 90th birthday.
“Small family businesses need that vital continuity,” he said. “I could not have served both the AGS or JA boards without Mom as the backstop, having chaired both and having taken Mom with me for as long as she would go. Many industry leaders still have a bit of Jean Farmer rubbed off on them.”

Farmer was known not only as the longtime head of the family business but also as a stalwart of the local community.

In fact, in 2017, former Lexington mayor Jim Gray presented her with a citywide proclamation to celebrate her 90th birthday.

She was preceded in death by two brothers, William Tilford Harbett Jr. and Elsworth Lee Harbett.

She is survived by son Bill Farmer Jr. (Kim); daughter, Kristi Farmer Lykins (Brian); and three grandchildren, William Farmer III, Shelby Lykins and Emma Lykins.

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