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Art Auctions became more than a hobby for Boge

Art Auction
When R. Jerome Boge conducted his first auction shortly after moving to La Crosse in 1974, he likely had no idea it would lead to a second career that would last 23 years and counting.

Boge, owner of Boge’s Auction and Appraisal Service, has conducted thousands of auctions including hundreds for charitable causes. Boge said his charity work is a way to do community service and to make a difference.

While Boge has not kept count, his wife, Patt, estimated her husband has helped raise more than $2 million at auctions for Boys and Girls Club, Tiny Tim, Big Brothers Big Sisters and many others.

“He’s a natural,” Patt said of her husband’s auction skills. “He has such a wonderful personality, and it really comes through at the charity auctions. The way he can cajole people to give a little bit more, is really something to see.”

While Boge is not one to twist arms at most auctions, he said, when it comes to the charity events, he feels his extra attention not only helps raise more money, but also adds a little theater to the event.

“It always goes a lot better and people enjoy it more if I’m able to interact with the audience more,” Boge said.

But Boge’s community work goes well beyond his legendary charity auctions. Boge is a member of the Boys and Girls Club Wall of Fame and has been a member of numerous local boards and committees.

In 1984, Boge’s charity work earned him the La Crosse Tribune-Chamber of Commerce Good Citizen Award.

His debut as an auctioneer came when he decided it was time to get rid of the things that would not fit into the family’s new home.

Boge, who as a boy attended auctions with his father, felt he knew a thing or two about auctioneering, so he decided why not auction off his own stuff. How hard can it be, Boge says now with a laugh.

When he informed his wife, Boge said, she did not respond as he had hoped.

“She said, ‘Oh don’t be silly. You’ll make a fool of yourself,’” Boge added.

Despite his wife’s concerns, Boge was up to the challenge. He put an ad in the Tribune, got help from a friend and prepared for the auction.

When the sales day came, Boge had a belly full of butterflies, but was determined to have a good time at this new experience.

“I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen. I’ve never done this before. But when I put on this Stetson I’m going to become an auctioneer,’” Boge said. “And I did.”

That first day went great. Boge had fun and earned much more money than he expected. Before he knew it, Boge had done five or six auctions for friends and realized he really liked being an auctioneer.

That fall Boge enrolled at the Reisch Worldwide School of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa, where he learned how to judge livestock and appraise antiques. There he also learned the legal aspects of the business, how to organize an auction. He spent every free moment from morning until night perfecting his chant.

“Before I went to auctioneering school, all I did was say a bunch of numbers as fast as I could,” Boge said. “I soon found out there was much more to the chant than that.”

Although 92 percent of those who complete auctioneering school never go into the business because they fail to line up work, Boge quickly found clients. At first he worked mostly household auctions, but over time moved into almost every kind of auction.

Boge worked as a radiation physicist at Gundersen Clinic, and then later joined Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wis., and commuted to work for 12 years.

He spent some of his days off and weekends auctioneering.

Boge said he found that auctioneering not only brought some extra money into the home, but also proved to be a stress reliever.

“Cancer management can get very heavy. You can get involved with your patients and it can create a drag on you,” Boge said. “Whenever I did an auction, I would forget all about that. It was kind of freeing for me. As a result I think it was a good benefit for me.”

Today, Boge conducts his auctions in much the same way he always has, dressed in a shirt and tie, wearing a western hat and boots and with the same, comfortable, friendly style he used during his first auctions.

Most of the auctions Boge has done over the years are less than memorable. But, he said, there are a few that stand out.

Conducting a tool sale on French Island when it was 19 below zero is one that stands out. So does the time Boge auctioned off a world champion lug of cheese that sold for a whopping $40 a pound.

Now retired six years from his full-time hospital job, Boge has slowed some, but said but he’s not ready to hang up the microphone.

“As long as I’m healthy and like doing it, I guess I’ll keep on working,” Boge said.


Name: R. Jerome Boge

Occupation: Retired radiation physicist and part-time auctioneer for 23 years.

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