Shoppers gasped and gawked as they wove their way through giant Chinese vases, Italian carved wood statues, Victorian settees and chandeliers Thursday morning at the first of many sales of Don Pearson’s massive antique collection after his death in February. He was 77.
Pearson died after years of health issues and cancer treatments, according to his obituary.
Pearson, a life-long Spokanite, was known for his love of history and antiques. Throughout his life, he amassed a large collection of furniture, art and other historic items to fill his six Inland Northwest homes. Pearson was the son of Reinhold (Lefty) Pearson and Alma Holstein Pearson, who founded Pearson Packaging Systems, a local company that builds machines to automate packing and manufacturing.
While attending Lewis and Clark High School, Pearson met a local antiques dealer who subsequently gave him a job. There, he learned to refinish furniture and fell in love with antiques, according to his obituary. While at Gonzaga University, Pearson studied abroad in Florence, Italy, where his love of architecture and art grew, according to his obituary.
After college, he returned to Spokane, where he worked for more than 40 years at the Washington Department of Social and Health Services in Child Protective Services.
In his free time, Pearson was a regular at antique and estate sales.
That’s where he met Tom Nichols, owner of The Estate Company, which is putting on the sale of Pearson’s estate.
“He was a personal friend of mine,” Nichols said with a smile.
Pearson had a photographic memory and knew the history of most of Spokane’s South Hill, Nichols said.
“He would help anybody out,” Nichols said.
While the estate sale of the late Don Pearson of Spokane goes on in another room Thursday in the former Triumph Composites warehouse in Airway Heights, Tom Nichols of The Estate Company arranges the room that will be used next weekend in the second weekend sale. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
Nichols rented the 42,000-square-foot Triumph Composite Systems building at 1514 Flint Road for the sale, which will take place over the next few months as Nichols and his team organize the extensive collection.
The first sale began at 8 a.m. Thursday and will continue from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, followed by another sale Thursday and next Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.
Additional dates will be announced on The Estate Sale website.
Pearson loved to collect chandeliers and Kerman rugs, Nichols said, along with a variety of styles of other furniture.
The sale includes about 10 baby grand pianos and 10 cars, he added.
“He was the largest collector probably around ever,” Nichols said. “He just collected stuff.”
Just two hours into the sale Thursday morning, about 200 people had begun claiming their items with green tags. Many of those people knew Pearson, having met him at previous sales.
One of those people was Marianne Bornhoft, a local Realtor.
She remembered Pearson’s drive to care for those in need, despite inheriting his father’s successful business along with his siblings.
“He didn’t have to work a day in his life, but he chose to work because he cared about people,” Bornhoft said.
Cynthia Carroll, owner of Antiquarian, a local antique store, remembered Pearson’s kindness, gentle demeanor and generosity.
“He was just a very special, good person,” she said.
Carroll, who shopped many of the same estate sales as Pearson, knew he had an extensive collection and took joy in finding memorable pieces.
“It made him happy; this was his passion,” she said.
Eveline Boaish met Pearson at an estate sale as well, and the two became fast friends sitting to talk after they finished “treasure hunting.”
Boaish, who grew up in Germany, loved to hear of Pearson’s European travels and the historical tidbits he would share.
“He was so soft-spoken, but you were at peace around him,” Boaish said.
Despite constantly running into Pearson at antique sales, Boaish didn’t realize the extent of his collection, noting Pearson was a private person.
“He had an addiction,” she said with a chuckle.
Shannon Murphy drove down from Canada to be at the sale on Thursday. She met Pearson at prior antique sales and the two bonded over their love of Victorian furnishings.
“It really warms your heart and lifts your spirit,” Murphy said of having antiques in your home.
“I think it’s really good for your soul.”
Pearson agreed, she said. As she picked out pieces to take home with her, Murphy said she hopes shoppers realize they’re taking home a piece of Pearson’s legacy.
“We’ll all have a piece of his great big heart,” Murphy said.
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