Landis remembers local jeweler, historian, killed in crash

Published 12:05 am Thursday, October 22, 2015

LANDIS — Well-known businessman Fred Talbert died Wednesday afternoon after he was struck by a car on South Zion Avenue.

The 89-year-old jeweler was riding down South Zion on a motorized wheelchair when the car hit him, Landis Police Chief Wood said. The accident happened around 2 p.m. Talbert died at the scene after CPR efforts failed.

The driver of the car that struck Talbert had not been charged Wednesday evening. Wood said the investigation is ongoing, and authorities planned to meet with the Rowan County district attorney on Monday.

To the people of Landis, Talbert will be remembered as a storyteller. His store on South Central Avenue, Talbert’s Jewelry, has been a feature in Landis since the 1940s, but the man himself is what people remember.

“He’s just been a fixture,” Tonya Goodman said.

Goodman works at Helping Hands Thrift Store, which has been a neighbor to Talbert’s Jewelry for several years.

Landis Town Manager Reed Linn says it’s local legend that Talbert, originally from Mooresville, and a polio survivor, started his business in the back of a shoe store. In his more than 60 years in Landis, Talbert became steeped in the town’s history, and was considered by many to be its unofficial historian.

“When we needed information of years past, we always went to him,” Linn said.

Linn said that Talbert was a staunch supporter of the town, and that he was always looking for ways Landis could improve.

He was known as a storyteller. Goodman remembered that Talbert loved to talk about the “old days,” and that older generations of Landis natives were always stopping by the store to chat with him. For a long time, Goodman said, Talbert was Helping Hands’ landlord. He owned three buildings on South Central Avenue including Talbert’s Jewelry.

He sold the buildings a few years ago to Blair Phillips, a photographer from Charlotte and a former renter of Talbert’s. Phillips said he admired Talbert’s work ethic, and credits him with the success of his business.

“He said, ‘Son, if we can make your business grow, let’s make it happen,’” Phillips remembered.

Phillips said that Talbert sold the buildings to him at a deal, with the condition that his jewelry business be allowed to stay on as a renter. Phillips told Talbert he could stay as long as he liked.

He was a hard worker, Linn said, working long hours at his jewelry store on South Central Avenue. He never knew a stranger, and would give his customers a good deal and a break when they needed one — their word was good enough for Talbert.

“He was a handshake kind of guy,” Linn said.

Phillips said that Talbert always had a smile, and was an optimistic, upbeat man.

“There’s just not that many men like him that are left,” Phillips said.

Many who grew up in Landis can’t remember a time when Talbert’s Jewelry wasn’t a feature of downtown, or when Talbert himself wasn’t tinkering away inside—including Linn, who says he knew Talbert for more than 40 years.

Even after he was old enough to retire, Talbert kept working half days at the shop. He would open at 9 a.m. sharp every morning, Goodman said, and work until noon. He was seen, as usual, fixing watches in his store the day he died.

“He will truly be missed by the community,” Linn said.

Talbert has a daughter and a son-in-law in Kannapolis. He also has a son, living in China Grove, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.