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Thousands turn out to own a piece of inventor Dr. Forrest Bird’s estate

UPDATED: Sat., April 29, 2017, 11:01 p.m.

Thousands of people came Saturday for the auction of items formerly belonging to physician and inventor Dr. Forrest Bird. Some came in the hope of buying one of the rare cars up for bid, while others were just there to observe – and to dream.

Over 300 items were up for auction, ranging from a polar bear rug to maps to classic cars. Bird, who was best known as the inventor of the modern respirator, died in August 2015 at age 94. His wife, Pamela, died in a plane crash two months later.

Luis Matos and his 10-year-old son, Lucas, drove to the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center near Sagle, Idaho, from their home in Cheney. Matos said he was mostly looking but would buy if something went for the right price. “Mostly it’s free entertainment,” he said.

He was taken by the 1955 Crown bus with a top that was nearly all glass. “It would make a wonderful RV conversion,” he said.

Matos had his eye on a 1966 Evenrude Sportsman boat, but was worried the price would be too high. “I don’t have collector money,” he said. “I would buy it to use it because it’s nice and because it’s old.”

His son Lucas said he liked the small motorcycles, one of which was a 1974 Honda 70.

“They would fit him perfectly,” his father said. “He’s dreaming.”

Charlene Knudtsen came with her friend, Jim Healey. Healy knew Bird and his wife very well, she said.

“He just wants something that belonged to Forrest,” she said. “I was looking at a couple of end tables, nice ones. We’ll see.”

Greg Taylor, of Sandpoint, had a bidding card ready to go, but was pessimistic about the prices. “I’m here out of curiosity,” he said. “Usually at a public auction like this, you can’t buy anything.”

Still, there was a chance he could get something – maybe the 1976 International Scout. “There’s some pretty unique stuff,” he said.

Bidders came from as far away as Florida, Maine and the Bahamas for the event, which was put on by Silver Auctions. The auctioneer announced that some of the proceeds from the event would be used to support the museum, which is now being run by Pamela Bird’s daughter, Rachel Schwam.

The first item up for bid was a two-step aluminum ladder, but the cars and motorcycles quickly came up for their turns. A fully restored, fully functional 1942 International firetruck sold to a bidder from Australia for $14,000. The rare 1972 Mercedes-Benz 600 short limo, of which 280 were made, sold for $44,000, reduced from full price because of a few minor mechanical problems.

One of the items that attracted a surprising amount of attention was a mounted 20-pound rainbow trout. Robert Stutzke bought it because his father, Ray Stutzke, guided Forrest Bird on the 1968 fishing trip on the Clark Fork River where Bird caught the fish.

“It was the first one he’d ever caught,” Stutzke said. “They only fished for half an hour before he caught that.”

The family had a long relationship with the Birds, Stutzke said. “I actually fished with him and elk hunted, too,” Stutzke said. During those trips he stayed in a camper and fished from a boat that were both up for auction as well.

The $425 Stutzke paid for the fish was a bit much, he said, but the purchase was about sentiment, not money.

“I only wanted to pay a couple hundred, but at this point, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.


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