Kay Gullickson stood in the center of a long hallway, her arms akimbo, her body angled toward a painting on the wall.
It depicted a young girl, her feet clad in a pair of riding boots. Her painted figure leaned casually against a fence, a dog curled up at her feet.
Gullickson moved a few steps to the left, passing an open doorway that revealed a home office washed in sunlight and overflowing with books. She stopped in front of another painting of a young girl, this time outfitted in a winter coat and ski gear.
“The Golds treated you like family,” Gullickson, 74, said later on Thursday morning, referring to the parents of the girls featured in the paintings. “They were easy people to work for — kind, caring. They kept saying, ‘Don’t you ever quit!’ ”
Gullickson wove through the rest of the late Walter and Gloria Gold estate, pointing out objects she remembers from her 45½ years as the family’s housekeeper: a grandfather clock, a set of intricately carved chairs, a calling card stand. April 7 through 10, those items and countless more of the Golds’ possessions will be up for sale, a fact those close to the late couple find both sad and hopeful.
Walter and Gloria Gold, the pair behind Sterling Pulp & Paper Company, died in 2008 and 2016, respectively.
The Golds left behind a vast array of both everyday and antique items — organizers from Minneapolis-based H & B Gallery say prices will vary between $1 to $7,000, and they expect interested buyers to line up outside the estate to wait for the sale. But to Gullickson and the Golds’ children, the worth of those items lies in the memories they associate with a couple who valued family.
Memory Lane, Eau Claire
“Mom kept everything. Absolutely everything.”
Elizabeth Rahr, 66, is the adult version of the young girl in the skiing portrait. She lives in Arizona with her family, and via phone she recalled sifting through her parents’ basement full of keepsakes from her own childhood.
Among the collection she discovered her pink water skis and tow rope, an array of hand-made, child-size dresses her grandfather brought home from his trips around the world and even her crib sheets, still in perfect condition.
“It was this charmed life for sure,” Rahr said of her family’s lifestyle, “but I don’t know anybody who lives like that (now). It’s our personal history, but it’s almost like going to a museum.
“It takes you back to your bedroom when you were in fourth grade,” she added. “It’s kind of an amazing process when you see your whole family history going on sale.”
Along the main level, other items include 19th-century original paintings, fine linens from other countries, dining sets, clothes, furniture and a four-foot-tall French urn.
The other half to the sibling duo, Mary Pat Judkins, 63, said the personal significance surrounding the items in the sale is about time spent with family, whether at the dinner table or abroad.
“For me it's mostly memories of using things,” said Judkins, who now lives in Colorado, “or traveling to places and experiencing those places with my family.”
Judkins remembers the dining room and kitchen tables, all the hours of playing cards and family gatherings fondly. She reminisced about a holiday tradition in which everyone comes to the table with $20 and a charity in mind, and as a family they decide which one to give to that year.
She said buyers might notice a lot of Chinese and African artwork for sale, much of which came from her trip to China and her sister’s trip to Africa with their parents. Other pieces and sets, such as the red china set, came from her mother’s relatives’ horse farm in Kentucky.
“There are things coming from a multitude of places,” she said, “but they're all about family.”
After decades as the Golds’ housekeeper, Gullickson grew close with the family, and especially with Gloria Gold after Walter Gold died, she said. She often ran errands, did laundry and brought Gloria Gold to the beauty shop after she transitioned to an assisted living center.
Even now, Gullickson remembers the exact placement of most pieces in the Gold home.
As she wandered through the house on Thursday, she paused often to point out objects’ original resting spot before they were rearranged for the upcoming sale and the memories behind them.
When she passed a calling card holder shaped like a cherub, she chuckled.
“(Gloria) said she and her girlfriend used to dress it up when she was little,” Gullickson said, laughing at the image of the intricately carved cherub adorned with undergarments.
When she walked by the grandfather clock, Walter Gold immediately came to mind. The clock didn’t always work, and they used to have to wind it once a week.
“As Mr. Gold always used to say, ‘It’s the biggest clock in Eau Claire, but it’s also the quietest!”
In the entry area of the house, Gullickson sat down in one of two matching chairs. “I remember Gloria telling me she used to sit in this chair when she was little and think she’s a princess.”
While Gullickson has some keepsakes — a painting Gloria Gold made, gifts from their trips abroad — she said it still hurts to see everything up for sale.
“It’s a little heartbreaking,” Gullickson said, holding back tears. “There’s a lot of sentimental things that you see day in, day out, week after week. And now it’s going to go.”
Judkins, on the other hand, sees the sale as a way to give new life to some of her parents’ old belongings.
Judkins and Rahr kept the family’s most personal items, and while many of the pieces in the sale still hold personal meaning, Judkins said she hopes other people use them and create new traditions.
“We have so many great memories, and we can't possibly use everything that's in their house,” Judkins said. “There's a lot there. We want other people to enjoy them.”
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