PORTLAND – A visit to Kathryn Maietta’s home in Portland usually involved an unveiling of her latest treasure.

“She’d have this grin on her face when we walked in,” said her daughter, Dianne McNeil of Melbourne, Fla. “She’d unwrap something and show us some fabulous new thing.”

Her new things actually were antiques, often a piece of china or a very delicate doll made in France or Germany. Mrs. Maietta started collecting antiques as a hobby and eventually became a respected dealer with customers all over the country.

She made money, even paying for trips to Florida and a small vacation home. But it was always the beautiful things themselves that got her excited.

“She generally would pay a fair price. She didn’t hold out for a big profit. She just liked having the things for a while, then she would turn them over and let someone else enjoy them,” McNeil said. “Some of them were stunningly beautiful. We got to enjoy them and she would tell us about them.”

Mrs. Maietta died Thursday at the age of 90. Family members say she was a brave and strong-willed woman who enjoyed being with her family and sharing her enthusiasm for finding antiques and making deals.

“I think she was more like a treasure hunter,” said her granddaughter Susan Smith of Kingston, Mass. “She would get us to get up early on the weekend and we’d go to yard sales looking for treasures. We started going around with her when I was 7 or 8.”

Smith said her first big find was at a church rummage sale, where she spotted a small Ginny doll that she recognized as being special. She bought it for $4 — all the money she had with her — and showed it to her grandmother.

“She said, ‘Oh my God, what have you found?’“Smith said. “Years later I gave her that doll as a present to add to her Ginny collection.”

Her grandmother later took Smith and her sister to flea markets and antique shows, introducing them to the other dealers and teaching them the art of the deal.

“She knew how to make a dollar and she knew how to spend a dollar,” Smith said. “I just thought she was the most amazing person.”

Her love of antiques began on a family vacation to Moosehead Lake when her daughter bought her a piece of china from a local estate sale, McNeil said.

“She learned more and more over the years,” McNeil said. She read and went to antique shows around New England. Once a year, she would drive to Florida with antiques to sell and return with ones she bought.

“Her specialty had become dolls,” McNeil said. Collectors and dealers from around the country and Europe called on her to find items or give them advice, and she even learned how to repair the dolls and make clothing for them of vintage lace and satin.

McNeil remembers one especially beautiful doll, a 20-inch tall French antique, that her mother kept for a while many years ago.

“She sold it one year to buy a little cottage at Old Orchard Beach, it was that valuable,” McNeil said. “She kept track of that doll and that doll sold many times. The last price that she saw was $95,000. She got $5,000 for it when she sold it. But she got that cottage at Old Orchard Beach and we vacationed there.”

McNeil said it never seemed difficult for her mother to sell the items and move on.

“She just knew that more new things would come into her life,” she said.

 

John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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