Sometimes, an auction is simply a method of passing antiques and furniture from one generation to the next. Sometimes, it is more than that.
Saturday's auction at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds will be one of those passing-of-the-torch events. The auction begins at 9 a.m. in Building 41.
The sale will feature antiques and objects from the estates and holdings of three prominent Rochester families: Rita and Ned Mayo, who owned an antiques business for decades starting in 1958; longtime Rochester attorney Louis Ohly and his wife, Beverly; and doctors Roy and Rhiannon Shorter (Roy was a Mayo Clinic pathologist, and Rhiannon was a doctor at the Rochester State Hospital).
The items up for auction will include furniture, artworks and objects dating back to the 17th century. John Kruesel, a Rochester auctioneer organizing the event, said the auction was several years in the planning and will involve several thousand items open to bidders.
Yet, Kruesel hesitates to take a stab at what the entire haul might bring because auctions are inherently unpredictable events. One man's treasure is another's thing that sits in the corner of the garage — and vice versa.
Kruesel once sold an oil painting owned by Dr. Will Mayo and valued by the so-called experts at $15,000 for $50,000. You just never know.
But there is no doubting how the surviving family members and current owners view these possessions. At one time, these bookcases, chests, tables and candelabras were the props to the daily drama of their lives. They tell the story of how the owners lived their lives and what they valued.
"They were participants in this community. They weren't casual observers," Kruesel said.
So there is a sense of sadness at this parting, but hopefulness that these objects will find a new home and be as valued as the ones they are leaving.
"It is difficult," said Patty Ohly, the daughter of Louis and Beverly Ohly, during a tour of their parent's three-story home in Southwest Rochester. "My dad was very attached to everything in this house. He loved it. So, it's really hard to see it go."
Louis and Beverly were a team and raised 14 children. They worked together. Louis was a Rochester attorney from the early 1970s, specializing in real estate. Beverly was his office manager. The couple saw each other practically 24 hours a day. Louis is said to have served more than 100,000 clients.
From the time the couple moved into the large Rochester home in the early 1970s, they started decorating it and filling it with antiques, Patty said.
"He talked practically every day about how much he loved this house," said Patty.
A maze-like structure with narrow hallways and dark-paneled walls, the home had an empty feeling on this day — the bedroom had no bed, the dining room no table — as the objects within it were being readied to be moved to the auction site at the fairgrounds.
Beverly died last July at age 89. Louis died three weeks later at 95.
Rita Mayo and her husband, Ned, opened Mayo Galleries in 1958, selling their antiques out of a converted green house and later a shop at the Kahler Hotel.
Rita and Ned's relationship was based on a shared love of antiques. And they shared that passion for decades. Ned, the son of Dr. Charles W. and Alice Mayo, died Jan. 15, 2017. Ned's ashes are buried under a nearby tree on the grounds
"We went into the antique business together and had a great time," Rita said.
Now in her 80s, Rita maintains an irreverent sense of humor. She says she is selling the remainder of her antiques trove, including a European-made grandfather clock, chest and secretary case, some of them centuries-old, because she is moving in with her daughter.
She is saddened at parting with her antiques, "which I have treasured, all of it," and her independence, "which is really hard on my love life."
Many of the items come with price tags of $3,000. Asked if it would bother her to sell the items at less than the asking price, Rita was unsentimental in her response.
"It would bother me only from the standpoint that I could use the money," she said. "It's throwing it up in the air and hoping that somebody recognizes the value."