Frances Elizabeth Gibson Loose, who bought Tuel Jewelers in 1975 and who worked in the store for 65 years, passed away January 5 at age 86.
She was a familiar sight on the Downtown Mall, always professionally dressed for work, even in recent years, when her daughter Mary Loose DeViney pushed her to the store in a wheelchair after Parkinson’s disease prevented her from walking. Loose continued to go to work up until a week before she died.
When she bought Tuel, Loose was the only female business owner downtown, and DeViney says her mother told another woman in a mostly male field, “I’m going to do it my way and you will, too.”
Loose was well-known and well-liked and was often called “Mom” by her many friends, says DeViney. “She extended credit to people that others wouldn’t have—and they paid her. She just believed in people.”
People from all walks of life came to the store just to talk to Loose. “I’ve got to talk to Momma,” DeViney heard regularly. “I shared my mom with all kinds of people.”
Faith was an essential part of Loose’s life, and in 2009, when she received the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Person of the Year award, she told DeViney, “Mary, this is nice, but I’ve got my reward in heaven.”
She was born in Ivy in 1931, graduated from Meriwether Lewis High School in 1950 and attended night school at Jefferson Business School for bookkeeping.
Loose began her retail career at the candy counter at McCrory’s Five and Dime. She moved on to Diana Shops and was hired as the bookkeeper at Tuel in 1953.
Working full-time and raising a family, Loose was known to go by Kentucky Fried Chicken on her way to a church dinner, and have the children arrange it on a crystal platter and cover it with foil in the back seat, says DeViney.
When Loose bought the store in 1975, it was tough times downtown, which was in the process of converting to a pedestrian mall, and she went to City Council to complain about lack of parking and access—some of the same issues today, DeViney points out. “You’ve made us an island,” DeViney recalls her mother saying to council.
“She was always a spunky little thing,” says DeViney, describing the twinkle in her mother’s eye and her dry sense of humor. “She hated pink,” says her daughter, “and a couple of days before she died, I said, “Mom, I’ve put you in a pink gown.’ She opened her eyes and said, ‘I prefer blue.’”
She was married for 56 years to Hermann Loose, who died a year ago. She’s survived by her daughters, DeViney and Frieda Loose-Wagner.
Her family will receive friends from 4 to 7pm today at Hill and Wood Funeral Home, and a funeral service will be held at 1pm Tuesday at Grace Episcopal Church in Keswick.