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Local jeweler remembered as a true gem
Orenstein ran shop for decades, offered watches to football stars
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Marvin Orenstein

Marvin Orenstein, longtime owner of Gem’s Jewelry in downtown Gainesville, died Friday morning. He was 91.

Orenstein is perhaps best known for donating watches to star high school football players, a tradition he carried on for more than 65 years and eventually included players from each public school in Hall County.

His daughters, Linda Orenstein and Temme Schooler, accepted condolences from the community in the business he loved so much.

“It wasn’t a job to him. He totally enjoyed what he did,” Linda Orenstein said. “He loved his customers. He used to say that would never sell someone something he wouldn’t have owned himself.”

They described how, even at age 91, his spirit was young and active.

“I’d tell him ‘Daddy, be careful.’ And he’d be wheeling all around the store, hitting things,” Schooler said with a smile.

Orenstein’s father-in-law opened Gem Jewelry in 1936 shortly after the infamous tornado devastated the city.

Following the death of his father-in-law in 1946, Orenstein approached Gainesville High School requesting to set up an award in his memory.

“He was a great guy; loved him. Don’t know where I’m going to get my jewelry now,” said Dan Summer, a Gainesville attorney.

That was also the question on the mind of Charles Hewett, a former Hall County sheriff’s deputy and candidate for sheriff.

“My son is 15 and he wants to know if he can still get his jewelry here,” Hewett said.

Orenstein, a member of the community in several capacities, never sought political office.

“Marvin used to say he was way too straightforward to be a politician,” Hewett said.

His daughter agreed.

“He said, ‘I couldn’t be a politician. You’d just have to stare at my face long enough to tell I was lying,’” Schooler said.

Orenstein was a former president of the Lions Club and the Georgia Jeweler’s Association.

His daughters don’t yet know the future of Gem Jewelry, saying they’ll be “playing it by ear.”

For now, they are closing the store until Christmas to take time to mourn the loss of a beloved father and businessman. By Jewish tradition, they will hold a three-day “shiva” mourning period.

A graveside service is scheduled for Sunday in Atlanta.

“It was a blast to know him, just to listen to him talk about the history of the store,” Hewett said.

As for the high school football watch tradition, state Sen. Butch Miller had already said himself that he would be “first on the list,” to ensure its continuance, Schooler said.

Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care of Atlanta is in charge of arrangements.

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