“For the work, now, what’ll you go?” Anyone who has attended an end-of-session scholarship auction at Penland has heard this phrase as auctioneer David Little called for an opening bid on a glass vase or a handwoven scarf. It is with great sadness that we report that David died of a heart attack on Thursday, February 21.
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to an auction before?” he’d say before he started. “OK, now raise your hand if you’ve never been to an auction before. Good. Now everyone here has demonstrated the only skill needed to participate in this auction.”
David’s involvement with Penland began years ago as an assistant to the auctioneer at Penland’s annual benefit auctions. He continued to help with the benefit auction right up to this past summer, and sometime in the mid-1990s, he started volunteering for the scholarship auctions at the end of each session. Since then, David rarely missed an auction, even though we have nine of them each year and he had to drive 2-1/2 hours each way to be here.
He usually passed the microphone back and forth with potter Cynthia Bringle, selling thousands of pots, goblets, vases, weavings, prints, paintings, jewelry, furniture, sculpture of all kinds, and items that were more-or-less indescribable. Along the way, he also cheerfully auctioned off a haircut, a farewell kiss, a date with a core student, a platter of cookies, a pair of galoshes, and many bags of bacon from the Penland kitchen.
David was an excellent and, one might say, classically trained auctioneer–something many Penland students had never experienced before. And while he sometimes struggled to read oddly pronounced names hastily scribbled onto pieces of paper, he never lost track of the bid. His patter, his pacing, his great sense of humor, his playful interaction with the audience, and his unflagging energy have made our auctions a high point of every session.
David lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked as a chemist at Meridian Labs. He played a lot of golf, was active in his church, and put great energy into parenting his 17-year-0ld daughter Annika, who, at his funeral, described him as, “the best dad in the world.” His years of auctioneering at Penland helped raise more than a million dollars for needy scholarship students. He was simply part of the family, and he will be greatly missed.