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Detroit auction house's Ernest DuMouchelle dies at 76

A well-known fixture in the Detroit fine arts and antiques community has died. Ernest DuMouchelle, who served as the vice president of DuMouchelles art gallery and auction house for more than half a century, died at 76 from natural causes while at home on Wednesday after a long-fought battle with heart problems. The death was confirmed by nephew and family spokesperson Robert DuMouchelle, who acts as general manager at DuMouchelles. “It’s a devastating loss,” said Robert DuMouchelle. “He was enthusiastic. There was a real love between him and his customers.” With its location across the street from the RenCen and frequent handling of notable art and antiquities from throughout Detroit's history, DuMouchelles has been a mainstay in in the city for decades. Among the high-profile auctions it managed were pieces from the demolished Fisher Mansion, the estate of former Mayor Coleman Young, material from Edsel Ford II's 25-room Grosse Pointe Farms home, and decor and furniture removed from the Manoogian Mansion when Mayor Dennis Archer left and Kwame and Carlita Kilpatrick moved in. It also handled prominent national auctions, for instance a Norman Rockwell painting that went for $240,000 in 1989. Affectionately known as Ernie to friends and clients, DuMouchelle acted as vice president of DuMouchelles for more than 50 years, with his older brother Lawrence serving as president. "In this business we're all kooks. You have to have vision and love the unusual," he told the Free Press in 1985. "The most fascinating thing is being able to talk to the different collectors who bring things in. They study the items more than you could ever study them. By talking to these people you can learn a lot, and it's fun to see people put collections together." Read more: Ernest was the youngest of five children born to founder Joseph DuMouchelle, who started the company with his wife Charlotte in 1927. The couple bought the company’s current landmark building at 409 East Jefferson Avenue in the mid-1930s. Ernest DuMouchelle in 1985 told the Free Press about the founding of the business that has been in his family for more than 90 years. "My father, Joseph, started the business in 1927 about two blocks away from here. He had the auction gallery on the main floor and lived upstairs. He died when I was 13, so I carried on the business with my brothers, Larry and Norman, and my sisters, Rosemary and Joan (Walker). We're all equal partners. We just worked and kept the business together." The esteemed appraiser and auction house is one of the largest in the Midwest. “It was his life – he loved art and antiques,” said nephew Robert. “(Ernest) was an innovator. He brought us into the technological age.” DuMouchelle wasn’t shy about the challenges of bringing a company with old school credentials like DuMouchelles “into the internet age,” said Robert DuMouchelle. “Back even in the 1980s, he was finding ways to merge a traditional auction service with the modern age,” said Robert. As a nationally certified appraiser and auctioneer with over five decades of experience, DuMouchelle regularly donated his time to charity and appraising events throughout the state and around the country. He also previously served on the board of the Founders Junior Council for the Detroit Institute of Arts. His skills as an appraiser landed him a recurring role across multiple seasons on “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS, where DuMouchelle specialized in metalwork and sculpture. In addition to his love for antiques, DuMouchelle was an avid sailor who earned the title of “grand ram” after completing 50 Bayview Mackinac Races. DuMouchelle is survived by his wife of 25 years, Jan along with three children, three step-children and numerous grandchildren. A memorial mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m Sept. 27 at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Park. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Bayview Yacht Club Junior Sailing Program.