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Woody Justice
Woody Justice

Justice Jewelers founder dies

Posted online
Last edited 1:50 p.m., Oct. 25, 2011

Justice Jewelers founder and owner Woody Justice died Monday after suffering a stroke while working in his private home office. He was 62.

Jake Wynant - who has worked private security for Justice Jewelers for four years and is fielding press calls due to his background in news production - said Justice had a business plan in place allowing the store to run as normal if something was to happen to him. Wynant declined to disclose details of the plan, but he said it would enable the company's 52 employees to continue forward seamlessly.

"(Justice) did something very different from most small-business owners," Wynant said. "He didn't just worry about his family; he worried about the families that worked for him.

"All of his employees loved working for him. It's very sad."

Heather Howell, Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home funeral director, said visitation is scheduled 5-8 p.m. Oct. 27 at the funeral home, 1947 E. Seminole St., and the family plans to hold a private service.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to Camp Barnabas, a Purdy-based camp for handicapped children that Justice supported.

Justice's death came two days after Justice Jewelers' third annual Diamond Dash, which benefited Camp Barnabas. Totals for the event have not yet been tallied, Wynant said.

Wynant said Justice Jewelers will continue with its plans to open a Pandora store in Battlefield Mall on Oct. 29.

Justice, a Springfield jeweler for nearly three decades, was well-known for his "I want to be your jeweler" and "Wokka! Wokka!" radio and TV advertisements, according to an obituary posted at the Justice Jewelers Web site.

In 2007, Justice was chosen from among 30,000 retail jewelers for induction into the Jewelers Hall of Fame in New York. Tiffany & Co. Chairman and CEO Michael Kowalski, the other inductee that year, spoke of Justice in his acceptance speech, according to the obituary.

“It’s really not that difficult to take a 200-year-old legendary brand to the next level. What I’ve done is nothing compared to my fellow honoree," Kowalski said at the time. "Woody Justice is a man who started with nothing and built a jewelry store that’s known across America. And he did it in just 25 years.”

Justice Jewelers was founded in August 1982 when Justice, then a gemologist and instructor with Gemological Institute of America, opened an office in Corporate Centre and began offering jewelry appraisals and showing jewelry by appointment, according to the Justice Jewelers Web site.

A retail store was opened in 1984 at 1308 E. Sunshine St., and in 1990, Justice Jewelers moved to the Brentwood Center across from Battlefield Mall, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.

Justice moved the store to its current location at Battlefield Road and Highway 65 in 1996.

In a 2006 conversation with SBJ, Justice said he moved the store to draw on Highway 65 traffic.

"The one thing we always wanted to do was become a regional jeweler," Justice said in the story. "Springfield is such a regional trade center, especially when it comes to retail, that we literally have people drive from 75 to 100 miles away to come to Springfield to go shopping.

"When people are coming from out of town into Springfield, it’s very convenient for them to use the loop."

The Justice Jewelers Facebook page, available at Facebook.com/Justice.Jewelers, is lined with condolences for Justice.[[In-content Ad]]

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