Published: February 14, 2017
FAIRFIELD, MAINE – Arthur Donald Julia of Skowhegan Road went to meet his maker, Wednesday, February 1, 2017. “Ol’ Artie” (as he referred to himself on eBay) at nearly 90 years old was the oldest practicing country auctioneer in the state of Maine and probably one of the oldest in North America. Just a few months earlier, he assisted his daughter, Jeannine, and husband, Steve Poulin, calling at a major antiques firearms auction.
Arthur was the youngest of 15 children born to Amanda (Quirion) and Azaria Julia, on February 7, 1927. He lived his entire life in and around Fairfield, and was educated in the Fairfield school system where he graduated from Lawrence High School. He was an outstanding athlete and excelled in football.
He married his high school sweetheart, Lilla M. Wood of Fairfield Center. They first began life managing the Julia farm in Fairfield. A few years later, they purchased a farm just outside Hinckley Village. He eventually tried his hand dickering with livestock, each day driving an old pickup truck through central Maine. It was a challenging profession dealing with crusty old thrifty Maine farmers, and he eventually took a more secure, full-time job as a salesperson for Armor Beef. When the company sent him to Chicago, the old-time sales hands at Armor told him that schooling was a bunch of nonsense and that they did perfectly fine without it. Arthur said he did not know any better, so went off to sales school, paid attention to what they taught him, came back and applied it and quickly became the lead salesman out of the Waterville location.
Sales came naturally to the handsome, good-natured Arthur, who loved dealing with people. He eventually took a position with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, where once again he excelled as a salesperson and was eventually made a manager.
The family had now grown to seven children and in need of a larger house, they moved to the village of Fairfield. He and Lilla began going to country auctions to buy furnishings for their new expanded home and eventually “overpurchased.” It was then they decided to attempt to resell purchases they did not need, as well as the contents of the old doctor’s house they now owned on High Street. “Oak Tree Antiques” was the name of the shop in the garage and would do very well. In his spare time, Arthur began to buy merchandise for his growing and prosperous business. Eventually he teamed up with his brother Phil, quit his job at Metropolitan Life and then later split off on his own.
Antiques and estates in central Maine were plentiful. What proved to be more challenging was selling. That is when he started his own auction business. After all, with seven children and a hardworking wife, he already had an auction team. On the auction block, Arthur was masterful. Down home with a tremendous personable attitude, he was always joking and quick to entertain when a pause came in the auction, while conducting business always in an honest and forthright manner. Arthur quickly became the go-to auctioneer in central Maine. Bidders loved this charismatic fellow, who said what he meant and meant what he said.
In 2006, Arthur was recognized by the Maine Auctioneers Association and inducted into the Maine Auctioneers Hall of Fame. Ironically when he first learned about the impending award, Arthur had some reluctance, particularly in regard to the acceptance speech. As unusual as it sounded, and despite the fact that he was a great performer and showman as an auctioneer, formal speeches made Arthur very uncomfortable. After giving it a bit of thought, he decided upon what to say and the result was true Arthur Julia. After receiving the plaque, he turned to the microphone and announced, “I always thought acceptance speeches should be like an attractive young lady’s skirt; short enough to stimulate interest, but long enough to cover the subject. Thank you for this award.” And with that being said, he sat down.
During his lifetime he was a tremendous father. He taught each and every one of his children how to be entrepreneurs, encouraged them to be honest and fair in everything they did. A number of his children eventually became antiques dealers and auctioneers themselves.
His oldest son, Jim, began assisting him at auctioning, buying and selling from the very beginning, and in 1974 Jim purchased his dad’s auction business and eventually grew it to an internationally renowned company.
His youngest son, John, worked together with his dad in the early 1970s, and together they established Julia’s as a “go-to place” for West Coast and Midwest buyers looking for quality Victorian furniture. Eventually John started his own business. His daughter Jeannine married the handsome high school quarterback, Stephen Poulin, and she and Steve worked with Arthur in the mid- to late 1970s, as Arthur taught Steve how to buy and sell. He eventually helped them start a small country auction business themselves, which grew to become nationally renowned.
In the 1960s, when Arthur first began doing auctions, the entire yearly gross sales might have been less than $30,000, with some auctions generating less than $1,000. In 2014, the Julia Company, that Jim had purchased, generated sales of approximately $54 million. That same year, Jeannine and Steve’s company generated sales in excess of $8 million.
Jim’s company, known as James D. Julia Auctioneers, based on annual sales, has become one of the top ten auction houses in North America and one of the leading auction houses in the world. Arthur’s youngest son, John, specialized in Victorian furnishings and eventually transitioned from a brick and mortar store to an online presence on eBay. At that time, John’s business was the largest seller of antique furniture on eBay.
To better serve his clients, John had started a shipping company with terminals in different parts of the United States.
All of this is traced back to Arthur’s humble beginnings.
The continued success of his children in the antiques and auction business was something Arthur was immensely proud of but likely would not have happened without his initial introduction, his careful tutelage, his guidance and his insistence on maintaining ethical and honorable business practices.
Arthur was also very civic minded and involved in local politics, serving Fairfield in many capacities. His direct, straightforward and honest approach to everything, come hell or high water, sometimes resulted in interesting coverage through the local Waterville Morning Sentinel and news media.
He is survived by his wife, Lilla, of 70 years, his seven children; Jim, and wife Sandy, of Belgrade, Maine; Jude Labbe, and husband David, of Rome, Maine; June Nelson, and husband John, of Waterville, Maine; Janice Bowles, who survived her husband Richard, of Oakland, Maine; John, and his beautiful life partner Dottie Ricci, of Fairfield Center, Maine; Jeannine Poulin, and husband Stephen, of Fairfield, Maine; and his youngest daughter, Jackie Julia, and her partner Peter Walsh, of Oakland, Maine. Also, a vast number of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. His only surviving sibling is Theresa Cyr of Winslow, as well as a vast number of nieces and nephews.
It was Arthur’s wish that there be no funeral but that a special Celebration of his Life take place, which would include one of his favorite bands, good food, and a gathering with all his relatives and many, many friends. This will take place in July, under tent at Jim and Sandy Julia’s residence in Belgrade. Those who would like to attend are encouraged to contact Jim to be included on the invite list. All guests will be invited to send or bring photographs and their personal stories of Arthur to share.
Arthur also made it clear that he wished no flowers, but that anyone so inclined and wishing to make a donation in his memory could do so by making a check payable to the Julia Scholarship Fund and forward it to Janice Bowles, 17 Rossignol Avenue, Oakland ME 04963.
-By the family
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