Helen Delich Bentley’s Memory Will Live on With Auctions, Memorial Service

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Helen Bentley
Helen Bentley

Former U. S., Rep. Helen Delich Bentley died on August 6, but her memory is being kept alive by three events next month – two estate auctions and a memorial service at the Port of Baltimore.

From November 3 to 5, Alex Cooper Auctioneers of Towson will sell many of the antiques, decorative art pieces and other collectibles that Bentley and her late husband Bill acquired over several decades.

The auction will feature more than 2,000 lots over three days, including “Bentley Day” on November 3, according to company vice president Paul Cooper.

The list of item includes more than 40 Russian statues, large “palace” vases, Imperial Russian porcelain figures and a sizable collection of Wedgewood bowls and vases, as well as some more personal items such as newspaper cartoons in which she was featured.

“We’re very honored to have this opportunity,” Cooper said of the sale. “Her prominence in the community was so great that they named the Port of Baltimore after her. She had tremendous accomplishments in her lifetime.”

On November 18, a second auction house, Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas, will hold a separate online sale of “art glass” owned by Helen Bentley, including vases, glassware and desk lamps by Tiffany and Galle, as part of its Art Nouveau and Art Deco auction.

According to Heritage’s website, the sale was in the works before Bentley died and Heritage plans to offer more items from the Bentley estate, including Meissen figures and vases, in February 2017.

“Representative Bentley was a true powerhouse for those in her district,” notes Nick Dawes, Heritage’s vice president of special collections, in a preview of the sale. “Behind the scenes, she loved the serene lines and craftsmanship of Tiffany, Meissen and Galle.”

For the November 18 sale, “Congresswoman Bentley’s carefully curated, lifetime collection of Tiffany is comprised of more than 100 [pieces] of glass, most of which have never appeared on the auction market,” the preview notes.

On November 4, there will be a memorial service for Bentley at the state-owned cruise ship terminal in south Baltimore. According to family spokesman Key Kidder, the service is being organized by officials with the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore, and admission will be by invitation only.

Bentley was 92 when she died of brain cancer at her home in Timonium, where she was receiving hospice care.

Besides being a pioneering journalist, a member of the House of Representatives and a fierce advocate for the Port of Baltimore, which is named after her, Bentley and her husband were avid collectors of antiques and fine arts, which her husband sold at Bentley’s Antiques Show Mart in Cockeysville. Helen Bentley continued to operate the store after her husband’s death in 2003 but closed it in 2007.

Cooper said the Bentleys collected so much that they had two houses to store it all – the house they lived in and a second home nearby.

The bulk of the contents of both houses will be sold by Alex Cooper in November and at subsequent sales in December and January, he said.

Cooper said the November sale does not include Bentley’s real estate or any vehicles. He said a printed catalog highlighting items from the Bentley estate will be available more than a week before the auction, and information also will be online at alexcooper.com.

He added that said he expects a big turnout.

“She was a fine collector,” he said. “She had a very good eye. This would be a good opportunity for people to take advantage of the items she put together.”

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts

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