Late auction house leader DuMouchelle had keen, expert eye

The Detroit News
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Lawrence DuMouchelle became president of his family's business in 1957.

Lawrence F. DuMouchelle, Grosse Pointe Farms

Lawrence DuMouchelle had a front seat to breath-taking finery, curios and fine estates while leading one of Michigan's prominent auction houses.

The longtime auctioneer and appraiser also ensured the standards at his family's business were equally exceptional.

"He was a classy, bright businessman. He was a professional," said longtime friend Joe Muer, whose family earned renown in the restaurant business. "He served his customers in a very dignified way."

Mr. DuMouchelle died Thursday, May 16, 2019, after a battle with cancer, family members said. He was 84.

For more than 60 years, he led the DuMouchelle Art Galleries enterprise, which his parents, Joseph DuMouchelle and Charlotte LePain, founded in 1927.

The original location remains in downtown Detroit, across from the Renaissance Center, and regularly hosts auctions for paintings, jewelry and antiques.

Born in Detroit, Mr. DuMouchelle gained a foothold early on, becoming an apprentice at age 11. His first experience as an auctioneer was at 16 when his father had him stand on a crate at an estate sale selling floor lamps, relatives recall.

Although he had hoped to study accounting and law at the University of Notre Dame, he remained in the city to help run the family business after his father became terminally ill.

Following Joseph DuMouchelle's death in March 1957, he took over and became president.

Mr. DuMouchelle worked to expand the scope of the gallery operation, which included modern computerization and eventually online auctions that reached buyers in more than 80 countries, his family said.  

He also refused to move the company from the city. Son Robert DuMouchelle called his father, who invested in several historic homes and buildings, a “role model” and a “man of honor” who faced challenges in his industry and in life and never abandoned Detroit.

“He brought solutions where others couldn’t see them, and he was always very generous to the city,” the longtime general manager said. “He was very supportive and a believer in the city. He invested and made things happen when things weren’t happening.”

Over the years, the business has held auctions for items from the Manoogian Mansion as well as Elizabeth Briggs Fisher, whose father was the late Walter O. Briggs, the former Detroit Tigers owner, the Whitney estate, Fisher homes and the Dodge-Ranger estate.

Known as Larry to friends and gallery regulars, Mr. DuMouchelle led many auctions and was a primary appraiser, assessing the value of goods for high-profile clients, according to an online biography.

"He was a very smart fellow," Muer said. "He ran that business expertly." 

His keen eye guided potential sellers who sought estimates on everything from French statues to English mirrors and even soldier toys through a Detroit News series, "Trash or Treasure.".

Along with other relatives, he also acted as an appraiser for PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow.”

Professional affiliations included the Appraisers Association of America, the American Society of Appraisers, the Michigan Auctioneers Association, the National Auctioneers Association and the International Society of Appraisers, according to his biography.

Mr. DuMouchelle also served on the board of trustees for the Detroit Institute Arts, the Central Business District Association and the University of Detroit High School. In addition, he was president of the DIA Founders Society and the St. Paul on the Lake parish council, relatives said.

He received numerous honors, including the University of Detroit High School businessman of the year award, according to his family.

Throughout his life, Mr. DuMouchelle sought to help others, raising funds to boost many charitable groups, foundations and schools, including auctions for the American Red Cross, Easterseals and others. 

A 53-year member of the Detroit Athletic Club, Mr. DuMouchelle was a tennis enthusiast and looked forward to workouts with a trainer. Other passions included following the Detroit Tigers, traveling up north and to Florida as well as reunions at a family cottage in Windsor he helped his grandfather build.

Besides his son, other survivors include additional children, his siblings, sister-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife of 58 years, Mary Jo McCarthy DuMouchelle.

Visitation is scheduled for 4-8 p.m. May 30 at Verheyden Funeral Home, 16300 Mack Avenue, Grosse Pointe Park. A prayer service is at 7 p.m.

A funeral mass is 10 a.m. May 31 at St. Paul Catholic Church on the Lake, 157 Lake Shore, Grosse Pointe Farms. 

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