Remembering Bill Doyle

Laura and Bill Doyle

This week, 80 years ago, my dad and our founder William Joseph Doyle (1940-1993), was born in Newton, Massachusetts, number 6 in a family of 9 kids. His mother said he was harder to raise than the other 8 put together. He couldn't sit still and was the only one in his family not to go to college, which dismayed his Radcliffe-educated mother. But I like to think he knew he had a lot to accomplish in a very short time.  

He went to his first auction at the age of 9 with his aunt and bid on a marquetry inlaid box. At first, another bidder started a bidding war against him and finally backed down after the room started chanting, "Let the kid have it." When the porter walked up the aisle to present the box to my dad in exchange for immediate payment, his aunt turned to him and said jokingly, "How are you going to pay for it?" That day was a defining moment for him.  In auction, he found something that captivated him where his energy was matched and valued.   

At the same time, he worked with a local scrap dealer, finding junk in the trash and from neighbors and putting it in his red wagon to sell. His ability to see value and his photographic memory allowed him to make money from things that might have been overlooked by others.  

Over the years, he honed this visual memory and coupled it with his incredible charisma to launch a business. While maintaining his day job in New York City, he started working as a picker with weekend trips up to New England, selling off the back of his van to his growing base of fans. Then he opened an antiques shop on East 81st Street, the same block where he passed my mom everyday on her way to work, and smiled and said hello. 

In the late 1960s, he started holding auctions in East Hampton and Montauk, drafting his 8 siblings, their kids and later my mom's 5 siblings as his staff. Soon Jose Otero Lozada and the kid across the street, Rodney Lang, started helping in the shop. Finally in 1973 he opened a full-service auction house at 175 East 87th Street.  

My father's innate skills as an auctioneer and appraiser were a gift for him. But his deep generosity was the gift he gave to everyone around him. There are so many stories of small and large acts of his kindness. Sending bags of food for weddings, funerals, new babies, sickness was only the beginning. Not just helping people in their times of need and suffering, but also amplifying the joy of celebrations. It is the depth of his generosity and the goodwill that it created that has carried us, as a company, through the many ups and downs of the auction market.  

He only lived 53 years, but the reverberations of his legacy continue to echo today.  My dad gave me that box he bought at his first auction when I turned 9. I will continue to cherish and preserve what it represents, the essence of who and what we are as a company.

Laura Doyle