TOWNSHEND, VT. – For many years, no antiques show boasting country Americana was complete without Howard Graff. Whether it was Wilton, Rhinebeck, Deerfield or Manchester Center, we expected to see the Vermont antiques dealer, always with a smile, kind word and cozy assortment of country furniture, folk art and “primitives.” Graff, proprietor of Colt Barn Antiques in Townshend, succumbed on October 22 to a respiratory illness. He was 90.
The dealer was born in Milwaukee to Myron and Isabelle Damask Graff on August 10, 1927. He attended high school in Waukesha, Wis., and took classes at Carol College before joining the US Army during World War II. The military sent him first to the University of Wisconsin, then to the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Japanese. He was based in Europe for the next three years.
Graff settled in New York City in 1949. There he met his partner, Burt Martinson, a founder of the Museum of American Folk Art. They were together until Martinson’s death in 1970. Graff became a photographer, shooting interiors for House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Good Housekeeping and other shelter publications. He later worked with furniture designer Karl Springer, promoting the designer’s creations to interior designers.
In 1978, Howard and his companion Richard Haas moved to a farm in Townshend, where they bred Morgan horses for 15 years. Graff simultaneously opened Colt Barn Antiques. He dealt by chance and appointment, establishing himself primarily as a show dealer. Graff exhibited at shows well into his eighties and for several years managed the Vermont Antiques Dealers Association (VADA) show.
“He was a charming person with a great eye, a real gentleman. He had downsized considerably in recent years and was putting things on consignment,” recalled another VADA dealer, Mary Fraser of Fraser’s Antiques in Chester, Vt.
A celebration of Graff’s life was held in Newfane, Vt., on November 11. Donations in his memory may be made to Grace Cottage Hospital, 185 Grafton Road, Townshend VT 05353.