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Provo jewelry legacy coming to a close

PROVO — JoAnn Losee can't pick just one favorite gemstone.

They each have a treasured place in her heart. And around her neck.

"I like big and I like sparkle," the jewelry matron says with a laugh. "Everybody who knows me knows I love large jewelry. I've always loved large jewelry. Stones are just like people. You love them for what they are. And every one is very, very special."

That passion for precious gems and people is what makes closing the doors after 53 years of selling jewelry so hard.

"My heart and soul is in those stores," said Dick Losee, whose kidneys decided a few years ago they couldn't keep up with his intense work schedule and began to fail.

He now spends as many as nine hours a day undergoing dialysis, lovingly administered by his hospital-trained wife. "We worked 'til 10 p.m. our whole lives and we loved it. We had the energy when we were younger. We couldn't wait to get there in the morning."

The couple still longs to bustle about the glittering, chandeliered showroom at 2230 N. University Parkway, but after considering their health, 76-year-old Dick and 72-year-old JoAnn knew it was time to let go.

Unable to think of transferring Losee Jewelers to a stranger, and with the support of their family, they made the tough announcement in May. Since then, they've been slowly selling off remaining merchandise and reminiscing with devoted customers who can't believe the news.

"Everywhere we go, (people) say, 'I loved your store,' " Dick said. "That's what makes us feel good about the life we've lived. We've made a lot of people happy."

The Losees married in 1954 and spent two years in Germany, where Dick was in the 2nd Armored Tank Division, leading the dance band and helping to train troops. By 1956, they were back in Provo where Dick studied business and music at BYU.

Because JoAnn had been selling clothes in Provo since she was 14, when her mother, Florence Bullock, approached them about opening a small jewelry store on 19 N. University Avenue, the couple jumped at the chance.

They opened "Bullock's Jewel Box" in November 1956, and later expanded and renovated the rest of the building. No one expected a 23-year-old and his 19-year-old wife to succeed, especially given their initial small selection of 12 engagement ring sets.

But they did, eventually expanding to a store in the University Mall and finally to their CottonTree Square store, Losee Jewelers, in 1989.

And that's where they've been ever since, wearing out the carpet from sun up to sun down, waiting on customers for as long as they stayed, then dealing with the books at night.

"It's hard to match the enthusiasm of a family-owned and operated business," said friend and customer Wendy Smith. "We'll definitely miss their high integrity, their attention to detail."

But that attention to detail wasn't just lavished on jewelry sales.

Steve Densley, president of the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce, said the Losees' impact on the community has been huge, from sponsorships and scholarships to numerous quiet acts of service.

"It's hard to replace a couple like that," he said. "They were so gracious about getting involved, being a part of the community."

The couple have donated money to Utah Valley University and their names adorn the Losee Center for Student Success. They've served on various boards, donated money for community events, and Dick, a professional musician, played in numerous locations and even soloed with the Utah Valley Symphony.

"They are constantly helping people," said Melodie Bestor, a friend of the Losees for more than 30 years. "Their No. 1 goal in life is to be of help to someone and they've done it to countless people — not just me, but countless others."

The Losees have been honored with numerous awards, including a rare double Outstanding Citizen of the Year award in 2006 from the chamber, Densley said.

The Losees insist they never did anything for the notoriety, but only because they loved their community and wanted to serve — especially if it involved helping someone fall in love with a beautiful piece of jewelry.

"Jewelry represents so many things," JoAnn says. "If you want to give something to someone that never dies, never goes away — long after we're gone, the jewelry lives on."