John Robert Latendresse, one of the world's leading authorities on pearls and often credited with creating the cultured pearl industry in the U.S., died Sunday at his home in Camden, TN, following a struggle with lung cancer. He was 74.
Latendresse was known as the "Father of American Cultured Pearls." He became involved in the pearl industry in 1954 when he founded the Tennessee Shell Co., a company that soon became the world's primary supplier of the shell used to create the nuclei that form the core of most cultured pearls. In 1961, Latendresse founded the American Pearl Co., the first successful pearl company in the U.S. Today the company is run by his daughters, Gina and Renee.
Latendresse had a passion for pearls of all types and was known for teaching others and establishing standards for the cultured pearl industry. He is survived by his wife, Chessy, five children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Donations can be made in his name to The Scholarship for Pearl Research, Attn: Dr. DiMichele, Dept. of Wildlife & Fishery Science, Texas A&M, TAMUS - 2258, College Station, TX, 77843.
- by Julia M. Duncan