Seller Story: Columbus, OH

“From the beginning of her life, my mom always did a lot for other people. When she went to college, she got a Master’s in social administration and was the director of the Mental Health Administration in West Palm Beach, Florida. That’s back in the day when nobody thought people who had a mental illness needed any special attention. During the war, she worked at Travelers Aid, and she always had a real, deep care for veterans. Her favorite holiday was the Fourth of July, and we’d go to Upper Arlington and watch the parade. She’d cry as the vets went by.

When she graduated from college in 1939, she went with a group of young women to Europe who were in Paris when war broke out. There were blackouts and no communication to families back in Ohio, and everyone was worried. When I went through some of her belongings, there were quite a few articles about Armena Blaisdell being one of the missing women; about their fathers not knowing where their daughters were and flying over to find them.

She loved to travel and not just being a tourist but trying to get to know people. Her thimble collection has pieces she purchased from people sitting on the sidewalk sewing. I found a whole booklet describing where each came from. Two were from China, from women she noticed on a doorstep sewing. They wanted to give them to her for free, but she paid them, and then others around them went running inside for their thimbles! She traveled to over 150 countries.

My mother never told her age. People were always curious about how old she was; she’d say: “A lady never tells, and a gentleman never asks.” One time she was going to Chicago with some women for a long weekend, and one of them offered to get the plane tickets so everyone would be together. And she said, “Armena, they need your birth date,” and my mother gave her a date that made her 12 years younger. Then she had a panic of guilt, and she called me and asked if she’d get in trouble. And I told her, “Well the TSA may not be OK with that! Next time, make it no more than 10 years off.” When she passed away at 97, some friends who had known her forever still had no idea how old she was. They always thought she was 10 to 15 years younger." – Diane “Snookie” DeGraff, daughter.

Seller Story: Columbus, OH
Seller Story: Columbus, OH
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Seller Story: Columbus, OH

Did the travel bug bite her at a young age?

She did most of her traveling starting in her mid-60s, when she was retiring. She started taking two to three trips a year, and most of the time she traveled alone. She wanted to see the world and the people in it.

There’s a lot from Tibet. Was that a favorite place of hers?

She went to China, Tibet and Bhutan in ‘83 and then went back in ‘84. There were certain things she was adamant about, and for a long time she wouldn’t buy anything from China because of the way they treated Tibet. She was into supporting local people and things made at home, and you see that in the collection.

She seemed very entranced by elephants.

She had quite a collection. She really liked elephants with their tusks up as good luck symbol. And the Ganesh statues fall into her love of other countries and of elephants.

Did you travel much together?

The two Venetian glass figures we got on my first trip to Europe in the summer of ‘63, when I was 13. My mother was very generous in letting a 13-year-old wander the city streets by herself. In Amsterdam, I ran all over the place and found a caster set, with bottles for oil and vinegar and other things, and I knew she would love it. I ran back to the hotel to tell her, and she came to the antique store and bought it, and then gave it to me.

Are the icons from Russia?

She wasn’t an extremely religious person, but she liked those things, in terms of bringing back something significant from the culture, and those are so quintessentially Russian.

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