Malibu Woman Makes Antique Find of a Lifetime

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A smiling Jerri Churchill (left) has her jacket appraised at “Antiques Roadshow” in August 2016.

A local woman who scored big at a Malibu estate sale appeared on the hit TV program “Antiques Roadshow” this week and now hopes to take her find to the Smithsonian Institution.

In early 2015, Jerri Churchill went to an estate sale at Broad Beach. She then found out the sale was at the home of the beloved late actor Carroll O’Connor. Churchill said for some reason she walked straight upstairs to the master bedroom and headed for the closet that was filled with men’s clothing. 

“There was a woman standing there and I said, ‘How’s your day going?’ and she said, ‘Not so good,’” Churchill recalled. “The woman then explained that the home belonged to her late in-laws, the O’Connors, and that her mother-in-law never threw anything away.” Churchill asked if the clothing belonged to O’Connor, who died in 2001, and the daughter-in-law confirmed it did. 

 “When I was a kid growing up in West Virginia, back in those days, everybody in the family gathered around the TV and watched a program,” Churchill said. “There was no internet or taping. My dad was a big fan of ‘All in the Family,’ so I decided to buy some clothes for him because they’re the same size. So, I randomly reached in and took four jackets. 

“I asked Ms. O’Connor if she would mind writing my dad a note — he’d get a kick out of it. And she did,” Churchill continued. “She wrote, ‘Dear Ron, Jerri tells me you’re a huge fan. Wear them in good health.’ I took the jackets home, having no idea what they were and on a whim looked for a picture of O’Connor wearing one of these jackets. When I started Googleing, I realized what I had and I kicked myself that I hadn’t bought the entire rack. I have photos of all four of the jackets on him from ‘All in the Family.’” 

The story gets more exciting when a friend, Amy Wallens Green, arranged for Churchill and her sister, Jeanie Burch, to have a girls’ weekend with her and take one of the jackets to Churchill’s favorite TV show, “Antiques Roadshow,” which taped last August in Palm Springs. 

“Anyone who knows me knows ‘Antiques Roadshow’ is my No. 1 favorite show for 20 years. This was a lifelong dream come true,” she said. “We waited in line with 5,000 other people for hours.” 

According to Churchill, when she finally got to an appraiser and showed him the jacket and a picture of O’Connor wearing it he said, “Holy S***.” 

“The producers then said I had to get into makeup and get a microphone on — and it’s funny, because my job is stage manager for live TV, but I’d never been in front of the cameras,” she explained. She said she knew it was special but that she could have never imagined what happened next and the look on her face is priceless. 

There’s a clip of Churchill’s segment on the show on You Tube where appraiser Timothy Gordon describes the groundbreaking “All in the Family” as a program that “took America’s hang-ups and values and shook them up for everyone to see.” He valued her $40 purchase at upwards of $20,000. But, Churchill is not interested in selling, calling the item a “national treasure.” 

“I feel honored to be its guardian,” Churchill explained. “My dream is to lend it to the Smithsonian to hang next to Archie and Edith’s chairs that are already there. The whole thing is an honor.”

That sentiment seemed to extend to the producer of the show as well. Marsha Bemko said her most memorable moment of Antiques Roadshow’s 21st season was “the chance to try on Archie Bunker’s jacket.”

“The thing my husband Frank and I love most about garage sale-ing and estate sales is the repurposing and reuse of perfectly good items,” Churchill said. “Instead of items ending up in landfills, you can find things that are perfectly useful that maybe you can’t use but somebody else can. That saying, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ has never been more true than in this case.” 

She said spending time at garage sales also makes her appreciate living here in Malibu.

“One of the things I love most about estate sale-ing is getting to meet my Malibu neighbors and seeing where different people live,” she said. “When you see somebody’s estate sale it’s a peek into their life. Carroll O’Connor was a national treasure and the fact that we got to have him as a resident in Malibu for so long is really an honor.”