Estate Sale Pioneers … Featuring Ralph Willard
(No 1 in the series)
It’s the mid to late ‘50’s. Country music star, Red Foley is hosting the national TV show The Ozark Jubilee live each week from Springfield, Missouri. It features local performers as well as new faces in the country music field. That’s where we find Ralph Willard, soon-to-be estate seller/antique dealer and show promoter. He’s a member of The Jubilee Promenaders, a young professional square dance group under the direction of L.D. Keller. Ralph spent weeks on the road performing and showing off his fancy footwork with them, but it wasn’t until he landed in Dallas, TEXAS he fell in love. That love centered around antiques & collectibles, especially Americana.
Most of us know Ralph as an antique dealer and an estate seller. We also know when he wasn’t conducting estate sales he hosted antique shows. Twice a year he could be found at Round Top promoting a cadre of antique dealers at the famous Rifle Hall. In the spring and fall, it was The Tower Show in the Embarcadero Building at Fair Park. Ralph knew everyone wherever he went and everyone knew Ralph.
When I asked people to provide a funny anecdote about Ralph for this story, I received several replies.
SK … One of the most kindest nicest men I know , love him.
AN … Ralph said how the street’s of Dallas were paved in gold. That’s why he had to leave the square dance group and move here.
FD … Ralph’s the inventor of the vertical display. He would put chairs and tables upon tables, stacking it all 2 to 3 deep with smalls.
DF … Love hearing Ralph say “Fabulous, Just Fabulous” about the antiques he sold.” Also, Ralph was one of my mentors when I first became a dealer. He was always happy to share his knowledge.”
JH … He is genuinely happy when other estate sellers do well.
I have my own story to tell. The first estate sale I attended that Ralph conducted, I asked about a strange set of small covered dishes. I had no idea what they were called. But he explained I was looking at “pot de crèmes”. He took time to explain their origin and that I was looking at ones made by an English maker. It was the first of many history lessons we had together.
That encounter was the beginning of many years of working with Ralph. Week after week he would have great estate sales … liquidating homes for antique dealers and customers/friends he had made over the years. While his health keeps him from actively pursuing the business any longer … RALPH WILLARD paved the way for the proliferation of estate sale companies in the Metroplex. They would do well to emulate his many talents.