One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but not many antique dealers want you to know the difference.
Jack Wardrop would have told you.
Chances are, if you’re a collector, a ‘picker,’ an auctioneer, or if you’ve had a garage sale in the last decade, you’d recognize Wardrop. He had a tough exterior, but was “all teddybear underneath,” as he was an honest and kind man according to Debbie Dore and John Plul, his longtime friends and fellow collectors.
He was also honest about his fight with cancer, and he was honest to the end.
Dore recalled a recent conversation, “I says, ‘You got too much spunk to throw it in.’ And he says, ‘Now I got too much cancer.’ The next day he was in hospice.”
Three days later, Wardrop passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning, April 23. He was 74 years old.
His positive attitude carried him through the last years of his life. Wardrop was given 18 months to live around five years ago after being diagnosed with skin cancer, but Dore said he didn’t let it slow him down.
“He fought the good fight to the end,” she said.
Wardrop owned and operated Jack’s Place, Antiques and Collectables for more than a decade. It was one of the stores that made up Cloverdale’s once-famous Antique Alley, which attracted people from all over the Lower Mainland. Many of those visitors would drop by Jack’s Place to ask him for his take on things.
His honesty was rare in their line of business, said Plul, who knew Wardrop for more than 30 years.
“Jack would share [his knowledge] with you,” said Plul. “He would say, ‘That’s not a real piece or that’s a real piece.’ And that’s kind of rare.”
“It is, in this business,” said Dore. “A lot of people just kind of slough it off in order to get that sale.”
Plul, who co-owned the Cloverdale Antique Mall, said he’d never seen anyone so universally respected. “We had 60 different vendors the mall, and they all respected him,” he said. “He would come in and he was kind of like the grandfather. The Dean of Antiques, he had that role.”
He was also a mentor, especially for Dore. Wardrop took her under his wing a few years ago, and began to show her the ropes. Dore had been a collector for years, but was new to the business. He taught her how to make a sale and how to bargain.
“Not that Jack could bargain, my God,” said Plul, laughing.
As his battle with cancer raged on, Wardrop began to realize he couldn’t handle the entirety of the business any longer. He tried to close his store on a few different occasions, but he could never stay away for long.
“He tried to sell and close down four different times,” said Dore. “He would see his stuff to the auctioneer and then he’d keep collecting and bringing his stuff from home.”
“It was just in his blood,” she said. “He couldn’t stop.”
In September 2016, he became business partners with Dore and in January this year, Dore took over the business in full. Although the sign on the window said “Nana’s Antiques,” Wardrop would still come in every day, sit in his favourite chair in the corner of the shop and talk for a few hours.
“He was a wonderful storyteller,” Dore remembered.
The store where he spent so much of the last years of his life holds interesting and unique treasures. Pieces owned by Burl Ives, the American singer and stage actor; a dress that was worn on stage of the original Broadway production of Hello, Dolly; and a Victorian picture frame book, more than a century old, were all housed in the store when The Reporter visited earlier this week.
But in the corner of the store, next to his favourite chair, was a book full of messages left by friends and colleagues for Wardrop, remembrances and reminders, that held one more honest truth: “You were a treasure yourself.”
Wardrop is survived by Marilyn, his wife of 52 years, his four children Lionel, Darryl, Tracey and Janice, and his grandchildren Ryan, Josie, Nigel, John, Kayla, Anthony and Mya.
A celebration of life will take place at Northview Golf Course and Country Club on Sunday, April 30 from 3 to 6 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the Wardrop family requests that donations be made to the SPCA or another charity of the person’s choice.