HAMILTON, Ill. -- Monday's auction of the estate of John Mahoney was particularly difficult for the Sullivan family.
Patricia Sullivan-Viniard, Mahoney's niece, had a hard time watching her uncle's belongings go up for bid. Just before the auction began, Sullivan-Viniard shared a few insights into the character of her famous, intensely-private uncle.
"He was every bit as warm and wonderful as you would hope," she told the crowd of close to 100 prospective bidders. "He was the exact same person when he became well-known as he was before."
Sullivan-Viniard said she had recently begun to hear about Mahoney's many charitable deeds, as he never sought credit when helping others.
Mahoney, who was a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company for 39 years and regularly performed at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Ill., died in February at 77 years old. He was a Quincy University alumnus and worked as an English professor at an assortment of colleges, including Western Illinois University, during the 1970s.
Mahoney likely will be best remembered for his role as Martin Crane in the NBC sitcom "Frasier," a character his nephew, John Sullivan, said completely contradicted the actor's personality.
"He was a kind, generous man -- funny and fun to be around. That is always going to be his legacy for me," the Sullivan Auctioneers co-owner said. "His ‘Frasier' character was nothing like that. He was a heck of an actor."
Sullivan-Viniard will always remember the atmosphere "Uncle John" brought with him whenever he visited.
"I'll always remember how much laughter was in the house whenever he visited," she said. "There are certain people that just brighten up a room, and he was one of them."
Although Mahoney was a private person, it was the wishes of the executor of his estate, who was his closest friend, that Mahoney's possessions go to fans who would cherish them. Mahoney's large record collection, various paintings, furniture and many pieces of "Frasier" memorabilia were all included in the auction. A rare Dale Chihuly-signed blown-glass vase sold for $13,000. Many signed scripts -- 10 scripts from the series finale sold for $600 or more each -- a script book from the first episode, and awards Mahoney had received over his career were included in the sale.
The auction drew national attention. Sullivan said an open house held Sunday was attended by visitors from as far as California and Texas. Live online bidding also was offered on select items.
"Curiosity brought me out here," said Jerry Shrader, a Roseville, Ill. resident who traveled about an hour to attend the auction. "I'm a big ‘Frasier' fan, and I came out just to see what he had."
Chuck and Jake Scholz also were interested in seeing Mahoney's possessions, and the father and son decided to drive up from Quincy for the auction. Chuck Scholz said he was taken by the Lac D'Annecy and Connemara pieces -- artwork which may have once hung on the walls of the actor's Oak Park, Ill. home.
"It's an intriguing look into his life," Chuck Scholz said. "Seeing his treasured objects, you get a feel for who he was."