Obituary for Sally Halverson
Sally Halverson was born in Rye, NY on July 22, 1924. She was the second daughter of George and Myrtle Gascoigne. During the depression her father`s successful real estate business was of course challenged, and to help, her mother, who had an ongoing interest in antiques, began to learn about them in order to buy and sell. Over time she became extremely knowledgeable and very successful, with antique shops in Thomaston, Newcastle in what now is the Publick House building, and in Huntington, LI. Myrtle taught her two daughters the fine points of antiques, which is a large undertaking because it covers a lot of ground. Just because an object of art, furniture, pottery, silverware or jewelry is old doesn`t mean it has collectible investment value. Both girls took an interest in learning and gained extensive knowledge and experience in many aspects of the field.
Sally went to high school in Rye, NY and from there attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa, where she studied draftmanship and art. After the US entered WW2, she worked on the Norden Bombsights in the drafting department, detailing the plans for the various sights for US airplanes and bombers. Soon after the war she and Richard Halverson, whom she met on a blind date in NYC, were married. They were married for 68 years until his death in 2015, residing in Newcastle since 1973. In truth, when you talk about Sally, you have to include her husband, because although they were independent people with their own successful careers, they were close throughout their lives from the day they met.
After they married, the couple moved to Richard`s home town of Minneapolis, where she worked for an architect and he became an accountant for Standard Oil. Eventually Richard began his own construction company, drilling 60 inch pipe for the city water system. The drilling rig needed for that size pipe was a large investment, however he had negotiated a deal with several townships to update their waterworks, and in time the city opted to do an extensive update as well, enabling him to pay the rig off in a couple years. In June of 1949 their son Ren was born and they lived on Minnetonka lake. Early in 1950 the family relocated to Harlingen Texas, where Sally worked for the county waterworks in the drafting dept. Richard began various enterprises along with his drilling company where he installed pipelines for the city, as well as irrigation systems for large cattle ranches. After 5 years in S Texas, Sally left the drafting field and began to study earnestly about antiques and increase her knowledge. She would avidly read anything she could find about the subject. She began to buy, restore and sell furniture as her mother before her, and found she enjoyed it as a avocation. They moved to Miami after the Texas drought ended in 1959, and Miami needed to replace their pipe system for much of the city. Richard was hired to oversee the 3 year project after 9 years in Texas. It was in S Fl that Sally really began to buy and sell antiques and branched out from furniture to other aspects of the field. That included eastern art, oriental rugs, bronzes, crystal, and many other niches that make up the vast world of antiques. She studied daily, often 5 hours or more, learning the various aspects of period pieces, value, what constitutes salable vs collector pieces in each realm, restoring techniques, and how to buy and sell to generate profit. By the time the family moved to Long Island, NY, Sally built upon what she had learned from her mother and interacting with good shops in various parts of Florida, and was ready to embark on her first real venture with her own shop.
The couple chose Locust Valley, a lovely area in Nassau County to live, and she set up shop in a restored garage storefront. After 1 year, her business and reputation outgrew that location, and she moved to a storefront on Main Street in Locust Valley, which was an upscale little town on the LI railway, where NYC commuters traveled back and forth from the city to work. She had learned real estate principles while growing up from her father, and the shop was located strategically beside a great restaurant and high end women`s clothing shop, and across the street from a nursery. It was a busy area, and within a year, she decided to create the town`s first consignment retail store for fine antiques. Since she didn`t have to buy most of the pieces she sold, she soon offered merchandise that was very choice, with a following of customers that were some of Long Island`s most serious collectors. The endeavor was a great success, and soon estates sales requested to have her do detailed estimates of all salable items the family didn`t want to keep. She learned about the science of auctions in those years, and became one of the most sought after appraisers and experts in NY. She was a special consultant for two of the most famous auction houses in NY and the world at the time, Sothebys and Park Benet. Before the days of the internet and the information highway we live in today, sellers wanted experts to examine and validate authenticity of high end items, and I recall going with her to Manhatten so she could consult with Sothebys staff. On one such trip she looked at a small jade figurine with jewels around it. I can`t remember what it was, maybe a cat or other animal. She and the manager went back and forth for a while, and I think she also looked at a musical instrument, then we left. They had a parking space at the door with security, which I thought was a bit much, but even back then parking was impossible in NYC. Later I heard they they sold that jade piece for over $20,000.00, a lot of $ in the mid 1960s. The questions they debated was whether the piece was made in China, Siam or another country, and it`s age. Apparently it was the real deal.
Consultants in any field, particularly sales, are valuable because their expertise increases the bottom line in pricing items. They have to be able to back it up factually, which is where reputation comes into play. My grandmother once bought a ship painting she liked and thought was valuable, but had it appraised to be sure. I can`t recall what she paid, but it wasn`t much. It turned out to be a painting by a great marine painter, maybe Thomas Moran, and worth 6 figures. She ultimately donated it to the Metropolitan Art museum. Having a "good eye" is the direct result of experience and knowledge, and when one plays with the big boys in the field, particularly as their consultant, you better know your stuff. Knowing something has value is important, knowing how much value to place on an object and why is what seperates the collector from the master. There`s always more to learn in any craft or trade, especially one that encompasses so many types of objects people desire and collect, and that may originate hundreds, even thousands of years ago. Sally loved it and could have become one of the leaders in her field, but at the height of her NY career, as her husband did in the management consulting field, she decided to step out of the NY pace and move to Maine, where she had great childhood family memories. Her mother had moved to Newcastle full time from Huntington in the early 1960s instead of only coming up in the summer for her antique business.
Not long after they moved to Maine, they purchased what became Maine Antiques in Wiscasset, along with Richard`s real estate office. Both had successful businesses from the early 1970s until retiring in the late 1990s. They were both well over 70 years old when they hung up the cleats. In doing business over the years Sally developed close relationships with many people, both customers and other dealers and people in the field. Several I know she`d like to mention are Bob Foster Auctions in Newcastle, and Kaja Veillux, Thomaston Place Auction Gallery. My mother and grandmother were close friends with Bob`s father and knew Bob since he was a youngster. Sally for years had a seat at every auction and they had a great relationship. She had a lot of respect for the job Bob did and continues to do. Kaja and both my mother and grandmother also were friends and shared many professional moments together. Kaja and mom frequently sat next to each other at Bob`s auctions not only because they enjoyed doing so, but so they wouldn`t get in bidding wars over items they both were interested in. One of those humorous anecdotes in the auction world. Kaja has developed an international business and is also highly respected worldwide in the field. There are dozens of other people I could mention and as many anecdotes that are entertaining, but suffice it to say that both of my parents really enjoyed people, and especially in the summer months, the shop on Route was full of people from the time they opened until they closed. Sally taught a lot of folks about the world of antiques , and mentored people both in NY and Maine who aspired to learn the business. She spent time with customers finding out what their tastes were, and taught them as well as showed them references so they could further their knowledge much as she had. One of her and my father`s favorite return customers was a very well known actress who spent several weeks in Maine in the summer when her shoots allowed. I met her several times, and they all really got along well, and shared a few lunches together if the schedule allowed. There were many repeat customers who would stop in each year as they passed through to their vacation destinations. The mood in her shop was always what I refer to as upbeat professionalism. She`d find what the customer was looking for if they knew, let them browse and look around if they didn`t, and was very attentive to what they paid more than passing attention to. She wasn`t "pushy" with clientele, and I think had the gift of making them feel comfortable while she explained nuances or answered questions. I have been to a great many retailers in my day, and seen some great salespeople who were on their game and knew their stuff. She was on another level from most, and truthfully it was because her people skills were off the charts, and she loved what she did every day. Looking back, on the day they sold the building, having sold the inventory, which should have been a happy one, they were both uncharacteristically quiet, almost sad. It was too much work to run a business requiring hefting and sometimes delivering heavy pieces of furniture and constantly replenishing stock for people 75 years old. I lived out of state and couldn`t help, and although Bob Foster had some of his staff do a lot of lifting, the temptation was always there to move things and "rearrange" to the extent they`d need a visit to the chiropractor.
Sally will be missed by a lot of people. She was fun, enjoyed the outdoors, especially fishing, was a great cook, a good and loyal friend, a caring mother and a good wife to her husband. She was a good businesswoman and an excellent teacher in her areas of expertise. She loved art and music, and design, and when she was younger drawing and painting. Her work doing detailed draftwork was excellent, as the fact that she worked on the extremely guarded and important Norden sight plans attests. That was highly secretive and guarded work and those involved were not only skilled but vetted intensively. A friend of hers who transported many large antique pieces to customers around the country told me once that she was "a good soul" That`s a good summation and an accurate complement. She got me out of a good many scrapes, was more understanding than many mothers would have been with my on the edge antics as a kid, was tough when I needed it, but always did her best to impart what mattered in life. She was devoted to me and my father, and they enjoyed a special life together and loved each other unlike few couples I`ve seen. She loved her family, her grandchildren, her siblings, and their children. People talk about luck a lot. I get it, because I won the lottery when it came to parents, and will be forever indebted to mine. So, until we meet again, thanks for everything Mom and see you soon!