Growing up on Long Island, Gloria Everett was a rare girl who had no dolls.
"My mom always said when she was little she was too poor to have dolls," her daughter Terry Ovsianik recalled.
As Everett reared her own daughters, that all changed. She began collecting dolls. Soon, they became an obsession.
During her later years, she would tour her house daily with her walker, touching and kissing the faces in a collection of more than 1,200 dolls.
Everett died a few days after her 90th birthday in February, leaving behind a prolific collection of antiques and collectibles at her one-story house on Nut Hatch Road — mostly dolls, from Armand Marsaille girls to Shirley Temples to Gerber babies.
For the past several weeks, Danny Triplett, a quiet, energetic home liquidator, has spent most days and many nights researching and pricing Everett's world of dolls, preparing to sell most of them over the weekends of Aug. 16 and 23.
Triplett said his company, Full House Liquidation of Tampa, has never staged a sale that spanned more than one weekend, but the sheer number of dolls in Everett's house required a grander operation.
He guides visitors through the house excitedly, showing a few of the expensive dolls — a tall, pouting lady named "Stormy," made by the Welden Museum of Fine Collectibles in Clearwater, which he has priced at $800. A German baby made of bisque and sawdust and glue has an asking price of $250, partly due to her age, more than 100 years old.
A separate shelf in the back of Everett's house is lined with black dolls.
"Signs of the times," Triplett said.
A few of the dolls — some of the most valuable — will be auctioned online, Triplett said. He estimated that the sale and auction will raise between $50,000 and $100,000.
In the hallway, he points to a stack of yellow newspapers: "President Is Slain," the New York Daily News proclaims on the cover of its Nov. 23, 1963, late edition. In the garage, he shows a small, dusty landmass of stacked World's Fair beer cans, most unpopped. An old ship's door, not dated yet by Triplett, serves as a kind of bench in one corner. His eyes shine boyishly as he dangles a London bike lantern from the 1800s.
This is Triplett's dream job, venturing among the rare finds in the houses he liquidates, and the spoils of Everett's house are especially varied and transcontinental. Underneath the treasure lies the quiet tale of one woman's life.
Gloria Healey was one of four children growing up on Long Island, the daughter of a Canadian mother and an unknown father. She was spirited and modern, her friends from high school said, wearing trousers at a time when women in pants were considered bold.
"She was petite. She was energetic," said Emma Hanak of Brookport, Ill., who met Gloria when the girls were freshmen at Smithtown High School on Long Island. "She was always going somewhere."
Emma said she, Gloria and the other girls in their group would walk through town after school and get sodas. Sometimes older boys with motorcycles would cruise by and take the girls to the nearby beach of St. James Harbor.
Gloria married Merton Everett in 1944 after a wartime courtship. In an undated photo, she stands smiling by a mailbox where she picked up his letters from abroad, her dark hair curling around her shoulders.
As a mother, Gloria would make clothes for her three children, said Emma, always sewing the latest fashions for her daughters and their friends — pleated swing skirts and poodle skirts, ruffled socks and saddle shoes.
In the 1970s, the family moved to Florida when Merton retired. Merton and Gloria eventually settled in the house in Weeki Wachee, with Ovsianik and her husband living behind it. Dianne Connors, Gloria's other daughter, lives in Spring Hill. Her son, Wayne, lived alone in Daytona Beach until he died in 2007, at age 62.
But Gloria Everett's final years were full, despite how much she missed her son and her husband, who died in 1997. She had four granddaughters, eight great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. She volunteered at HPH Hospice.
Over the years, Everett's dolls spread through all three bedrooms and the attic and garage in her house.
On her 90th birthday, she celebrated with her family, smiling and talking, despite her worsening lung cancer. Four days later, on Feb. 19, she died, surrounded by her dolls.
Her daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren each chose a few to keep, then decided to free the rest of the "overwhelming" collection, Ovsianik said.
Connors' older daughter always preferred the Shirley Temple dolls, Connors remembered. Her other girl "went for the homely ones. … She related to the dolls that she felt didn't get as much love as the pretty ones."
Everett's daughters recall that when they were younger, none of their mother's dolls were off limits except for a few of the antiques. A table set up in the dining room served as the center of endless revolving tea parties.
Everett loved all of her dolls, the daughters said, never professing a favorite.
"We'll make sure all of her babies go to good homes," Ovsianik said.