Liberace’s cousin’s estate draws standing room only

WITTENBERG, Wis. – Usually visitors from New York or Chicago who spend time in Wisconsin’s north woods are there to catch a little ‘R&R’ on one of the area’s numerous lakes. The weekend of Sept. 27 however, visitors from seven states were in town to catch a little stardust in the form of memorabilia, jewelry and vintage couture from the estate of Judith Willing, cousin of entertainment legend Liberace.

Willing, who went by the stage name Judy Wells, was a New York fashion model and theatre actress. She left acting and began a career in modeling from 1959-1961, most notably for Plaza Five Modeling Agency, one of the top three modeling agencies in New York.

Under Plaza Five, Willing became known as a photography model and a showroom model for various Seventh Avenue fashion houses. She also appeared in several television commercials and was on the cover of Bride and Vogue magazines. She even modeled for numerous catalogs and record album covers.

Willing retired to Wisconsin, where she and her cousin, who was born Wladziu Valentino Liberace lived as children. Liberace grew up in West Allis, Wis., located just outside Milwaukee, and Willing retired to Menasha, Wis., 100 miles north.

It took weeks of organizing to prepare for the auction, which was held at the Red Oak Inn, located 65 miles west of Green Bay.

Among the antiques, a three-piece Italian clock and candelabra set sold for $525, a pair of Reed & Barton silver plate candelabra reached $180 and a Towle King Richard, 44-piece set of sterling flatware sold for $950. A pair of wall mounted crystal wall sconce lights reached $310.

Several figurines from Madison, Wis.-based Ceramic Art Studios brought higher-than-expected prices. A pair of Ceramic Art Studios leopard figurines sold for $150, a pair of Parrot shelf sitters brought $130 and a matching pair of Archibald The Dragon figurines sold for $175.

Numerous pieces of Liberace memorabilia were included in the estate, such as a framed autographed Liberace photo, which sold for $125 and an album of Liberace’s personal family photos, which sold for $100.

As expected, top lots included numerous pieces of jewelry and vintage couture dating from the 1960s to 1980s.

A ladies 14 karat diamond and sapphire ring with matching earrings sold for $500, a ladies 14 karat 21-millimeter by 15-millimeter amethyst ring brought $325 and an Emilio Pucci beaded and sequin evening jacket sold for $220.

An Oleg Cassini beaded cocktail dress brought $150 and an unmarked sheepskin shoulder bag and vest brought $140. A Victor Costa purple feathered cocktail dress dazzled the crowd as it was modeled during the event. It later sold for $190.

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Judith Willing Auction

14 karat charm bracelet, $425

Full-length sequin opera coat, $400

Rhinestone jewelry assortment, $250

Costume jewelry assortment, $240

Towle King Richard 44-piece sterling silver flatware, $950

Larry Moses Begay Squash Blossom turquoise necklace, $575

Ventome necklace and earring set with minor damage, $380

Emilio Pucci blouse and panties, $250

For more information on this and upcoming Chuilli’s Auction Service auctions call 715-253-3038 or 715-297-2457, or visit