Donald Bridell came honestly by his penchant for collecting.
He was born in the grips of the Great Depression, raised on a small farm south of Nevis, Minn., and had enough brothers and sisters to field a football team by the time World War II had come and gone.
"We grew up pretty poor, the 11 of us," said brother Ray Bridell, and it was something about that upbringing as the eldest of the brood that compelled Donald to scrounge around garage sales and the like for a vast array of items.
Rifles, sewing machines, boats, fishing rods, lawn mowers. On and on until he had filled two garages on the family homestead and packed in still more at his home in St. Louis Park, where he retired after a career in insurance.
"He knew every piece that he had," Ray Bridell recalled.
Donald Bridell died May 6 at age 89 in a nursing home in Minnetonka, two days after his COVID-19 was diagnosed.
For all the buying and storing, Donald Bridell finally scored big when a painting acquired in a two-for-$5 transaction at a farm auction in 2010 turned an astronomical profit and earned him national television attention.
One piece depicted a coastal landscape and the other a farm set amid the mountains of America's desert Southwest.
When "Antiques Roadshow" came to the Twin Cities in July 2011, Donald Bridell took the paintings to the show for scrutiny.
Once New York City appraiser Debra Force got an off-camera glimpse of "Mesa in New Mexico" by Victor Higgins, Donald Bridell found himself hustled into position for his television spot with the oil painting in tow. Show crew insisted he keep his Vikings ball cap atop his head.
Force explained during the segment, which aired in May 2012, "If this were for sale in an art gallery in Santa Fe, for example, which is where he probably would sell best, I think it would sell in the range of $75,000."
Donald Bridell replied, "Whew! You blew me away. $75,000?"
Force helped him sell the cleaned-up painting for $95,000, and he received a check for $76,650 once commission and other costs were satisfied.
As for how the money was spent, Ray Bridell said, "We have no idea. He was pretty well-to-do. He paid for his nursing home for all the years, put all of his grandkids through college and his daughter, too."
Along with his brother Ray, survivors include daughter Barbie Miller and siblings Larry Bridell, Durwood Bridell, Ken Bridell, Leone Kubiszewski, Deloris Hamblin, Alice Larson and Arlyis Kerr.
A graveside burial took place Thursday. A memorial service will be scheduled later.
Paul Walsh • 612-968-2483