Well-known resident left house full of furry collections

Willie Stagg had a passion for collecting.

“My mother – if she had one of something, she had 50,” said Edith Gilbert, the eldest of Stagg’s two daughters.

In the case of stuffed bears, make that at least 2,000. She also liked Beanie Babies, amassing more than 1,000.

Gilbert has spent the past three and a half months sorting through her mother’s many belongings – boxes stacked to the ceiling – and preparing for an estate auction.

Stagg, 77, died Jan. 24. She and her husband, Harold, were well-known members of Lawrence’s black community.

Harold Stagg died in 1992. He was 67.

“My mother was a collector,” Gilbert said. “If somebody came to our house and said they needed a size 10 pair of jeans, she’d have 10 pair and she’d give them to you. She was that way.”

The Stagg estate includes:

¢ More than 2,000 Beanie Baby-like stuffed animals.

¢ Close to 3,000 record albums.

¢ More than 100 cookbooks.

¢ At least 50 porcelain Christmas bells.

Auctioneer Doug Riat, Lawrence, moves through the crowded garage of Gilbert's the late Willie Stagg Thursday evening organizing over 5000 miniature stuffed animals collected by Stagg as he prepares for a two-day auction this weekend in which the family will sell many of Stagg's possessions including her many collectibles. In addition to the stuffed animals, some of the other notable collectors items are Stagg's 200 plus Barbie dolls and over 2000 albums.

¢ Enough glassware and dish sets to service a few dozen newlyweds.

¢ About 200 Barbie dolls, some still in the boxes.

¢ At least 2,000 teddy bears.

“Up in the attic there were 25 of the biggest trash bags you can buy, stuffed full of bears,” auctioneer Doug Riat said.

“At first, we thought this would be a one-day sale,” Riat said. “But there’s no way. It’ll take two days at least.”

The auction begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Stagg residence, 1511 E. 19th St.

Riat said he’d spent two months gearing up for the sale.

“This isn’t the biggest auction I’ve ever done, because so much depends on the size of the house,” he said. “But for a house this big, this is the most stuff I’ve ever seen.”

An Elvis Christmas Album and selected speeches of John F. Kennedy rest among the piles of albums up for auction.

Gilbert said her mother loved garage sales, thrift shops and bingo.

“For a long time, blacks couldn’t play bingo in Lawrence. The places – Eagles Club, Knights of Columbus, American Legion – were segregated,” Gilbert said. “But when they opened up, my mother was the first one in.”

Thrift shop workers, she said, used to hold back items they knew Stagg would want.

“She collected everything,” Gilbert said. “But she kept a clean home and everything was very well-organized.”

Stagg worked for the chemistry department at Kansas University for many years. She also worked at Weaver’s Department Store and sold real estate.

For most of the 1970s and into the 1980s, she and her husband ate breakfast and lunch at the former Drake Bakery, 907 Mass., Woolworth’s department store, 911 Mass., or Raney Plaza Drug Store, 1800 Mass.

Auctioneer Doug Riat, center, and Aubrey Gilbert, move through the crowded garage of Gilbert's deceased grandmother Willie Stagg Thursday afternoon, as they prepare for a two-day auction this weekend in which the family will sell many of Stagg's possessions including her many collectibles. Among other things, according to Riat, Stagg carried a collection of over 200 Barbie Dolls, 2000 albums and 5000 miniature stuffed animals.

“My parents were fixtures in the front window at Drake’s,” Gilbert said.

Former drug store owner Dick Raney remembers the Staggs fondly.

“The years I knew them best were years of terrible strife in Lawrence,” Raney said. “They were the most congenial folks. By that I mean they were peacemakers; they were comfortable and well-respected on both sides of the racial divide.”

Harold Stagg worked at KU for many years before being injured in an automobile accident. He later ran the Gaslight Tavern, 1241 Oread Ave., served as maitre d’ at the Carriage Lamp restaurant, 711 W. 23rd St., and staffed the west Lawrence toll booth for the Kansas Turnpike Authority.

“Harold had a broad range of acquaintances and not an enemy in the world,” Raney said.

More about Beanie Babies