More than 50 people had lined up outside Terence Williams’ home by the time the front door finally opened at Thursday noon. They’d been waiting under a soft rain, fidgeting, hoping to find a treasure or two. Some had been standing there for 30 minutes.
Once inside, the crowd walked carefully through a labyrinth of framed paintings, wood furniture and tables covered in glassware. Nearly every item – the things Williams collected in his life – had its price. Even his towels and shoes were for sale.
Estate sales like the one that drew that large crowd to South Land Park last week happen every day around Sacramento. But this one had a special element, thanks to an unexpected and generous gesture made by Williams before his recent death.
Williams left his estate – everything he owned and, it is believed, all of his savings – to the Sacramento Ballet. His gift could provide 10 percent of the ballet’s budget this year.
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“The ballet has come through a very difficult time, and it’s been steadily rebuilding its core,” said Charles Ansbach, the ballet’s executive director. “And (Williams’ gift) really helps take the edge off the challenges.”
Like many other performing arts groups in Sacramento, the Sacramento Ballet sometimes has seemed just a couple bad months from shutting down for good. The company ended its season early in 2015 in a move intended to cut costs.
However, the ballet is under new leadership and is working to stabilize its finances. It has moved into the new Clara Midtown, a hub of performance and rehearsal spaces funded largely by the city.
Ron Cunningham, the ballet’s artistic director, said the organization could receive $200,000 from Williams’ estate. The gift could help cover payroll, fund performances or pay for improvements the ballet has made at Clara Midtown.
“My first reaction was that I couldn’t believe he had passed away,” Cunningham said. “He wasn’t fragile – he was tall and outgoing. And then I was equally surprised that he left his estate to us. That was quite a shock.”
Williams was 77 when he died. The ballet learned from one of his nephews that Williams had bequeathed his estate to the organization he cherished.
Though ballet staff were familiar with Williams as a patron, they knew little of his personal life. His family couldn’t be reached for comment for this column to relay details of his life, including what he had done for a living and when and how he died.
Williams attended ballet dress rehearsals, private events and many performances over the years. When the company went to China in 2007, Williams joined them, climbing the Great Wall with members of the group.
On the day of the estate sale, more than 50 paintings hung from the walls of his home. There were books everywhere. His Mason & Hamlin grand piano was fetching $4,995, and the asking price for his Waterford crystal chandelier was $1,295.
“He was a very classy guy, he surrounded himself with things of beauty,” Ansbach said. “And when people make these estate gifts, when the time comes, they want these gifts to be their legacy.”