Ralph Overstreet, who started Overstreet’s Jewelry on the north side of the downtown square in Bentonville in 1948, has died. He was 103.
Overstreet died Feb. 3 at The Meadows assisted living facility in Bentonville, according to his obituary.
A Springdale High School graduate, Overstreet ran track at the University of Arkansas.
In a profile originally published in August 2013 in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Overstreet recalled the origins of his jewelry business in downtown Bentonville.
After moving to Kentucky, Overstreet said he started a small watch repair shop in Wilmore, Ky., but at about age 20, he realized he needed a little more training.
“That’s when I talked my uncle, who was a doctor in Louisville, to send me to the Elgin watch school in Elgin, Ill.,” he said.
Overstreet’s uncle agreed and in 1941 Ralph graduated from the school. Between stints in the Navy and time spent in the South Pacific and occupied Japan during World War II, Overstreet was hired to work in the Elgin watch factory.
It was at that time Overstreet married his “first and only love,” Belle Little, who he met a couple of years earlier while briefly living in Farmington.
“I got my first paycheck from the watch factory and came down to Fayetteville and married my sweetheart,” Overstreet said with a smile. “I was pretty sure I was going to marry her as soon as I met her. I was 24, she was 23, and we got married on July 6, 1941.”
Belle, who ended up being a big part of the jewelry store’s success before suffering a stroke in 1988, passed away at the age of 90 in 2008.
A few years after marrying Belle, Overstreet accepted an offer from a friend to be a watch maker in South Dakota. He worked there for 2½ years when a trip back to Northwest Arkansas so Belle could be bridesmaid in her younger sister’s wedding opened the opportunity for the family to return to the area for good.
“We were in Springdale and I got to asking around if there was a watch repair store in the area for sale and found out there was one in Bentonville,” Overstreet recalled. “In the corner of a movie theater was a watch repair shop and I asked the guy running it if he wanted to sell it and what he wanted for it.”
The answer: $4,000.
“I wrote him a check, he walked out, left everything there and I took over,” Overstreet said. “It was Nov. 8, 1948, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Overstreet was honored by the city of Bentonville with a birthday dinner at his 100th birthday and again this past October at his 103rd birthday, with Mayor Stephanie Orman giving him the key to the city.
A funeral service through Stockdale-Moody Funeral Services of Rogers is scheduled at 11 a.m. Thursday (Feb. 20) at First Baptist Church of Bentonville.