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Rags-to-riches Amway distributor Puryear dies

Fri., June 3, 2016, 4:50 p.m.

James Ronald Puryear, one of the most successful Amway distributors in the world, has died.

His office in Spokane Valley, World Wide Dream Builders, confirmed his death but declined to provide any other information.

At one time World Wide Dream Builders had more than half a million distributors in over 30 countries. Puryear, known as Ron, ran the business with his wife, Georgia Lee Puryear.

Locally, the Puryear family may be best known for the construction of a 26,000-square-foot vacation home along the Spokane River in Post Falls. The “Amway House” quickly became a landmark for boaters when it was built over the course of five years, starting in 1995. It features 13 bedrooms and bathrooms, a saltwater pool, immaculate grounds, stunning views and several boat docks. It’s currently for sale, priced at just under $10 million - down from $20 million in 2010.

During construction, neighbors complained that full-size Greyhound buses loaded with Amway distributors would stop by on their way to Amway conferences in Spokane.

Ron Puryear’s life was a rags-to-riches story of fairytale proportions: he was a mill worker living in a trailer in tiny Grangeville, Idaho, when a back injury ended his career as a physical laborer.

He got an accounting degree and worked as a bookkeeper at the Franklin County Public Utilities District. Georgia Lee was waiting tables at Denny’s when friends introduced them to Amway in 1971.

Just six months later they were making enough money for Georgia Lee Puryear to quit her job; Ron Puryear did the same in 1974.

By 1979 the couple settled in Spokane and their business boomed, allowing for a rock-star lifestyle complete with private jets, boats and lavish accommodations.

The Puryears have two sons, Jim Jr. and Brian. Jim Jr. is an assistant football coach at Whitworth University and was the target of an attempted kidnapping in 1983. Brian died at 27 in 1995.

Ron and Georgia Lee Puryear were famous for the inspirational Amway videos they produced, and Ron Puryear’s speeches were a highlight of Amway conventions in Spokane. Deeply religious, Ron Puryear often shared that his business was blessed by God, and donated part of his wealth to Christian charities.

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