The estate of a well-known Joplin couple who died 10 days apart in August drew a long stream of shoppers on Thursday as their possessions, including hundreds of historical items and antiques, went on sale.

A line formed down the front sidewalk and along the yard of the Allen and Paula Shirley home in the 3500 block of Alabama Avenue as a three-day estate sale launched at noon.

A retired pharmaceutical salesman, Allen Shirley was known as a champion of the Joplin History and Mineral Museum. He was an avid collector of American historical items that were shown as exhibits at that museum and others that were displayed at the Freedom of Flight Museum at the Joplin Regional Airport, City Hall and other locations.

Paula Shirley was known as a collector of friendships because of her love of people. She showed that, her friends said, in her work at the Missouri Southern State University Residence Life Department in the Student Life Center, and as a community volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri in Joplin. She also was known as a good cook whose kitchen was filled with the dishes and glassware of her mother and grandmothers going back to the late 1800s.

She died Aug. 2 and he died Aug. 13, both of COVID-19.

It took two weeks to prepare and set up the couple’s possessions, acquired during a 49-year marriage, for the sale, said Michael Wicklund of New Beginnings Estate Sales of Southwest Missouri.

Room after room stacked with paper collectibles of all sorts — including books, photos of celebrities, sheet music, old newspaper pages and baseball cards — are available. There are still many pieces of furniture available along with hand-painted china and dishes, clothing, housewares and other items.

Many of the framed collectibles that Allen Shirley put together are in the sale. They are from events with local ties, such as Bonnie and Clyde and the collapse of the Connor Hotel, to those of national events, including the Civil War, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the sinking of the Titanic, World War II, aviation and space exploration.

Wicklund expected more than 500 people to come through the doors Thursday, and that mark was close to being hit by midafternoon. Some of those lined up to get in said they were not looking for any particular items but wanted to browse what was available.

“Many of the big-ticket items are gone, and that’s what we wanted,” Wicklund said in the early hours of the sale. “So that’s good.”

One of the first items visitors to the Shirley house saw as they came into the entry hall was a 1700s grandfather clock that was brought to the U.S. from Switzerland. That also was one of the first items to sell. “That’s awesome,” said Wicklund upon learning that that it had already sold. “And it’s staying local,” he said of the piece.

Though he didn’t have a count of the items to be sold, he said there were 200 framed historical items from the Shirleys’ history collections that were available. Many lined the walls of the rooms in the house but also were on tables and even propped up against pieces of furniture.

Friends of the Shirleys and museum benefactors paid for items that are to be given to the local museums as permanent collections. Several items related to Southwest Missouri battles of the Civil War will go to the Joplin History and Mineral Museum by friends who wanted to honor Allen Shirley’s devotion to the museum and to his collections.

Another recipient is the Freedom of Flight Museum located in the general aviation terminal at the Joplin Regional Airport.

“Thanks to a very generous benefactor we were able to get several things of interest to our local area,” said Daryl Coit, president of the museum. “These are really nice pieces, so we are happy about that.”

The items are related to historical aviation and aerospace history like the Apollo programs, World War I and World War II, he said.

Coit said the museum will announce when it has the items on display. The museum has been closed because of COVID-19, but it will reopen Dec. 2 and will be open from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays until spring.

The museum has a need for volunteers to give tours, help with STEM education for kids, exhibits to be done and other duties, Coit said.

Wicklund said many of the exhibits, especially some of the local ones and related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, were among the first items to be sold. But there’s many more left for shopping in the remaining days of the sale.

“If they want to take home a good local piece of history, this is the place to be,” Wicklund said.

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