Antiques collector to offer tips, appraisals at museum program
When he was a boy, George Way had a habit of walking in the streets of his New York City neighborhood.
"I always had to tell him to get out of the street," recalls his mother, Marilyn Wilson of Natrona Heights, Harrison. "He would say, 'Ma, you never know what you're gonna find.' "
At 54, Way, now an internationally known antiques collector who will present a program about "The Art of Antique Collecting" Sunday in Tarentum, still has not heeded his mom's warning.
"To this day, I find coins and jewelry and other things in the streets," Way says, laughing.
One museum notes that he has amassed -- although probably not from the busy thoroughfares -- one of the finest, privately owned collections of Dutch and English furniture, paintings and decorative objects in America.
He has been a furniture consultant for the famed Christie's auction house and has been sought as an expert for a number of museums.
He has been a guest on television shows such as "Oprah Winfrey," "The Home Show" and "Today," and has been featured on NBC's national news and on the BBC. A publishing company has expressed interest in a book.
Way also has been the subject of features in Forbes, Esquire, People (twice), Art and Antiques and the World of Interiors magazines.
Marilyn Wilson says she is not surprised at her son's success. "I'm proud of him, but not surprised," she says. (Her daughter, poet Louise A. Wright, a resident of the Poconos, has a poem in the Library of Congress.)
Way says he is looking forward to his first visit to the Alle-Kiski Valley.
He will give a slide presentation about the antiques he has discovered and how he became a collector. "I'll also bring some pieces with me which people can handle," he says. The public is welcome to take as many as two pieces to be appraised.
Cathy Wencel, manager of the Heritage museum, says, "We are delighted to present this program. It enables us to share something special with the public."
"George Way is a remarkable individual with such an intense passion for collecting," says Erika Schaefer-Hellstrom, a member of the board of directors of The Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island, N.Y. Way's goal is to one day have a museum to house his collection on Staten Island, where he lives.
"His unique tales of how he finds his treasures are always delightful," Schaefer-Hellstrom says. "George has a huge heart and is very down to earth. I think that's what makes him such a great person. He's found so much success, and yet, he lives like you or me."
People often are surprised to learn that Way still works in the deli of a grocery store on Staten Island, where he cooks hot foods. "I'm wealthy, but it's tied up on the walls," he says, laughing again. "I've been here 31 years. I enjoy my work. I make work fun and take pride in my job at the deli," he says.
This self-taught collector, who has no schooling beyond 12th grade, also has been a cab driver and has worked at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
"It's good to be book-learned, but I was able to see the real thing and handle it," he says of collecting.
People usually assume that a person has to be extremely wealthy to start collecting today, he says. "But I show them you don't have to be wealthy; you have to have knowledge."
He plans to offer tips in Sunday's program.
"I feel blessed that God gave me this gift. I pursued it. I'm very determined and focused," Way says. A lot of people lose interest in a collection. I never have. I want to learn everything there is to learn."
"I love the challenge of finding and collecting and putting it all together," he says.
He insists he is not into it for the money. "It's about living in luxury, living in a time tunnel," he explains. "I appreciate what I collect. I live with it. I never get tired of looking at it." He has 150 paintings, alone.
He is not married.
There wouldn't be room for a wife, Way explains, through laughter. Additional Information:
If you goWhat: 'The Art of Antique Collecting,' featuring George Way.
When: 2 p.m. Sunday. Doors open 1.
Where: Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society Heritage Museum, 224 E. Seventh Ave., Tarentum.
Cost: $5 (Way will appraise as many as two antiques for an additional donation of $5 to the museum.)