Estate sale of McGovern items both personal and political

Works of art will be among the many items available in the estate sale of the late George McGovern’s possessions.
Works of art will be among the many items available in the estate sale of the late George McGovern’s possessions.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — George McGovern once gave his daughter a bookend made out of soapstone in the shape of a bear — a symbol of the ‘‘Terr the bear’’ nickname the former South Dakota senator often called Teresa, who froze to death 18 years ago in a snow bank near a bar where she’d been drinking.

The figure is one of many deeply personal items going up for sale starting Saturday at McGovern’s Sioux Falls home. The three-time presidential candidate, one of the nation’s most-outspoken voices for liberalism and against the Vietnam War, died in October at age 90.

Daughter Ann McGovern said the family decided to hold an estate sale over an auction because of the sentimental value of many of the items.


‘‘What we’re hoping is that a significant number of these things will either go to people we either know or have some connection with, and my parents collected a fair amount of art and some really nice pieces over the years, and to see them sort of sold at an auction or something where everybody is trying to get a bargain so they can resell it would be pretty distressing for us,’’ she said.

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No family members plan to be present during the sale, Ann McGovern said. Money raised during the sale will go to Ann McGovern and two other sisters. Proceeds from the sale of copies of McGovern’s book, ‘‘An American Journey,’’ will be donated to the hunger relief organization Feeding South Dakota, which McGovern championed.

‘‘The hardest part for the whole thing is putting a price on his items. You know, it’s so valuable memory-wise, maybe not monetarily, but it’s his, so it maybe means more,’’ said Deb Sorensen, who runs Finders Keepers Estate, Collectable & Antique Sales, which is handling the pricing of items and the sale.

Items up for sale include antique furniture pieces, fine china, campaign buttons, and photographs of McGovern with other Senate leaders, including Robert Kennedy and Bob Dole.

And there are lots of books. Among them are a Franklin Library collection and some of McGovern’s own titles — many of them out of print and a few autographed.


In one book, ‘‘The L Word: An Unapologetic, Thoroughly Biased, Long-Overdue Explication and Celebration of Liberalism,’’ McGovern, who lost the 1972 presidential election in a historic landslide to Richard Nixon, wrote the forward for the author, David P. Barash. When Barash sent him a copy, McGovern reread it and made notations on how he could have improved his writing.

‘‘I thought that was so funny. He was always critiquing himself,’’ Sorensen said.

Items going on sale range in value from $1 to thousands of dollars. McGovern’s handwritten notes are priced at $6, while a framed photo of McGovern with one of his beloved Newfoundland dogs in Rome is $310. A Time magazine cover with McGovern on the cover is priced at $72, while pillows he once used are $8.