In life and death, eccentric Hampton couple makes beautiful music together
When the love of her life died in 2011, Alfreda Antignani knew she wouldn't be far behind.
She also knew what to do with her final days. So she got to work.
“When he died, she had more money than she ever expected,” said Chuck McCourt, nephew and closest relative of Arthur and Alfreda Antignani. “I said, ‘Spend it on yourself.' A month and a half later, she comes to me with this gigantic bill, and I said, ‘What are you doing? What is this?' ”
Arthur and Alfreda Antignani married in 1959 and spent the following five-plus decades building a mostly private, entirely eccentric life together.
They bought a hilltop estate in Hampton. They built a home, closed the steel gates and retreated to their eight acres, called Skyvue Estate.
Arthur, a professional saxophonist, made wine with grapes from their vineyard. They played tennis on their private grass court and drank tea poolside, near the guitar-shaped patio. They filled their home with keepsakes that pleased their unusual tastes.
There was the leopard skin chair in the shape of a woman's high-heeled shoe. Black leather curtains. Hanging chains that doubled as window blinds.
A spiral staircase covered in red shag carpet led to a sprawling room on the second floor with wall-to-wall rainbow-colored shag carpet. Every doorknob was shaped like a music note. In the breakfast nook just off the second kitchen — yes, the second kitchen — a mural of Adam and Eve, her arm extended to the serpent, covered the wall. A bathroom a few feet away included black marble flooring, red carpet on the walls and ceiling, and a brightly colored, original painting on the inside of the bathroom door depicting a woman whose body appeared to be either melting or made of smoke.
The bar was fully stocked. The hollow trunk of a 6-foot plastic palm tree in the living room served as a tall aquarium. A Cadillac with custom-made music-note accelerator and brake pedals sat in the garage.
“That's just the way they were,” McCourt said. “They really didn't do a lot of traveling — they spent all their time up there at Skyvue. They loved it up there. They were one. Everything they did, they did together.”
They lived there together until Arthur died. He was 84.
Alfreda followed three years later on Oct. 28, 2014. She was 78.
McCourt, the executor of her will, put the estate up for sale, per his aunt's wish.
In her will, Alfreda asked that the house be demolished. Because it was their refuge, McCourt explained. It was just for them, and now they were gone.
When Skyvue Estate hit the market, Gale and Terry Colton took an immediate interest. When they toured the home, filled with peculiar belongings, they were sold.
“They grew up in the '60s and stayed there,” Terry Colton said.
They bought the estate and its contents for $335,000 in August. Then they opened the long mysterious, always private home to strangers during a three-day estate sale in the fall.
Framed paintings, multi-colored lamps and puzzling sculptures went out the door. A porcelain hippo sold, as did a large stuffed gorilla.
Nobody bought the mannequin in a steel cage.
The Coltons made $12,000 during the estate sale.
Two items, however, were not for sale: Arthur's saxophone and a box of love letters found in the master bedroom.
“To my one and only jazz artist,” Alfreda wrote in a birthday card. “May we always make beautiful music together.”
“Happy birthday with my everlasting love that will never die,” Arthur wrote in another, enclosing a flattened red rose between the pages.
The earliest note is one that Arthur sent in 1975. A music box affixed to the card still plays “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” when wound. Some letters are so old that the writing has faded. Many refer to their song: “All the Way,” performed by Frank Sinatra.
The sax and box of letters do not belong with strangers, Gale Colton said. They belong with Arthur and Alfreda.
And that's where they will go: Inside the mausoleum Alfreda built in her final years.
It's near the entrance of Allegheny County Memorial Park. It's impossible to overlook. The large, sculpted saxophones and music notes command visitors' attention.
“... She comes to me with this gigantic bill, and I said, ‘What are you doing? What is this?' ” McCourt recalled. “She said, ‘You told me to spend it on myself. Well, I'm spending it on me and Arthur.' ”
She paid “far more than most homes cost,” McCourt said. She saw to each detail, including the music notes from “All the Way” affixed to the gate. She wrote the words on the plaque:
HEART BELONGS TO YOU
AS WE STROLL HAND
IN HAND THRU THE
FOREVER AND EVER.
ALL THE WAY
It took three years to construct. When the work was done, they moved Arthur's body from the main cemetery mausoleum to his final, private resting spot.
Alfreda waited until he was safely in place.
Then she returned to Skyvue Estate, and she stopped taking her cancer medications.
The time had come to rejoin her “one and only jazz artist.”