Raleigh priest’s estate sale gives friends tangible memories

afrank@newsobserver.comAugust 28, 2013 

— In his 40-year career as a priest, Monsignor Tim O’Connor amassed a vast collection of religious art and artifacts, most as gifts from friends and admirers.

O’Connor, a pastor and friend to countless in Raleigh, died June 9 at 66, and the collection built over his lifetime had no chance of fitting in the family’s homes, said Kevin O’Connor, one of O’Connor’s three younger brothers.

So the family hired Steve Minor to host an estate sale at a parish house behind St. Luke the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church near Falls Lake. The last day of the three-day sale is Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The items for sale embody a widely missed member of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh and give friends and family keepsakes to remember him by.

“He has so many fine things, and he knew how to make it blend together,” said close friend Dick Friedewald. “Whenever he’d go into a new church or a new house, you could just see that he had been in there … the way he decorated, I mean, he was just a master.”

O’Connor had an affinity for oriental and Italian furnishings. He melded the two into one decorative style, Friedewald said.

Friedewald knew O’Connor from his time at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Cary. He bought a pair of three-foot-high mahogany candlesticks he remembered admiring at the priest’s home.

When people bring home mementos over the course of the estate sale, “A little bit of him will be all over,” said Kevin O’Connor, who lives in Florida.

The New York-born O’Connor’s intricately decorated home reflected his knowledge of art and literature. But he’ll be remembered for his warmth, which reverberated in his sermons, Friedewald said.

The decorative items come from locals and friends O’Connor made in Europe – mostly Italy. The collection included around 1,300 art pieces and decorations, and more than 3,000 books and CDs when the sale started. Japanese woodcut paintings hung on the walls, ready to be sold along with Pope Benedict bookmarks and a closet full of long, ceremonial robes called cassocks.

Prices ranged from $2 for CDs to $2,500 for some paintings. Minor sold almost all the most valuable items Thursday evening, when he held a preview of the estate sale for items priced higher than $95. Attendees signed up in advance for the 3 p.m. preview, and began lining up around 8 a.m.

“It was a huge success,” Minor said. “There were over 100 people in line.”

Minor would not say where proceeds from the sale will go; the family donated about $100,000 worth of books to the church.

Minor estimated about a third of the people came to buy items for sentimental value. On Friday morning, Minor was still busy as about two dozen people at a time wandered the two-story sale area.

One of the most valuable items left after the preview was a zucchetto, or small papal hat, which belonged to Pope Pius XII. The oldest items were sold Thursday: Two 18th century works – a Spanish colonial South American painting and a carved figure of Saint Michael.

Sam Blackman of Raleigh met O’Connor at a Super Bowl party with mutual friends. They bonded because they were both wearing red sweaters, he said. They stayed in touch and took a trip to Europe with friends. At the sale, Blackman bought a colorful mug made in a city he visited with O’Connor.

“He was about as kind a person as you could come across,” he said. “(The mug) reminds me of the trip.”

And the candlesticks will remind Friedewald of a man he found charismatic from the moment they met. O’Connor couldn’t befriend each parishioner individually because there were so many, but he connected with them when he preached, he said.

“I miss him dearly,” Friedewald said. “I could talk about him forever.”

Frank: 919-829-4870

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