Antiques, Car Friends Will Miss Donald O. Baumann, 78

Don Baumann and his wife Ruth stand among their cherished schoolgirl needlework and early American furniture in their shop back in 2012. —Laura Beach photo.

MALVERN, PENN. — Donald O. Baumann, 78, who died January 12, is missed sorely by the many friends he made from his twin passions of antiques and racing.

A devotee of early mid-Atlantic American furniture and schoolgirl needlework, Don saw many pieces from his inventory placed in collections of several important museums over the years.

He was the co-founder of Quaker Pump Company in Lansdale, Penn., until he sold it and turned to retail antiques sales full-time as co-owner of Van Tassel-Baumann American Antiques with his wife Ruth.

It was through his love of antiques and car racing that he met his wife while she was working at H.L. Chalfant’s in West Chester, Penn. She loved to tell people, “You never know what you may find in an antique shop, maybe even a husband!”

Lifelong residents of the Philadelphia area, Don and Ruth both attributed their love for antiques to their parents’ influences. When they met, Don already had considerable experience with authenticating, buying and selling Americana, many times in partnership with his longtime friend Skip Chalfant, who also shared Don’s passion for Porsche racing.

Don was an avid Porsche enthusiast, who both raced and taught high performance driving with the Porsche club of America for more than 15 years. He also enjoyed vintage racing with the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association for many years.

“I met Don working on his 356 Porsche in his driveway in the early 1970s. I just stopped and introduced myself. We both have a love for cars and within weeks we bought a Porsche Speedster race car and raced it for a couple of years,” recalled Skip Chalfant.

“He was fascinated with my connection with antiques and started riding with me buying antiques and selling them for more than I paid. Don found that fascinating, and we started partnering and making money together. It developed into a great friendship.”

“Several years later he met his future wife Ruth in my shop. We all went to the track together, racing Porsches for years. Don was always a great friend and business partner. I still want to call him when an auction comes up and discuss the details. I miss that part of the relationship.

“He will be missed by his car buddies and antique buddies as well as friends and family! I certainly feel a void in my life,” Chalfant said.

Don and Ruth’s business and life partnership spanned nearly 30 years. Their primary love was the period furniture of the Delaware Valley, but fine New England items could also turn their heads. In addition to period furniture, they specialized in early schoolgirl needlework. Many special finds from their inventory have found homes in collections at Winterthur, Independence Historic Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Over the years they exhibited at The American Antiques Show, The ADA Historic Deerfield Antiques Show, The Collector’s Fair in New Hampshire, The Chester County Antiques Show and The Greater York Antiques Show.

“I have lost not only my husband, but my best friend and mentor. I am devoted to our business and it will continue; that is what I want and that’s what Don wanted for me as well,” Ruth said.

Laura Beach, senior contributing editor to Antiques And The Arts Weekly, reflected that Don was a lovely, elegant and gracious man, and auctioneer Ron Pook said, “I’ve known him for over 35 years. He was a great standup guy, refreshingly honest and direct.”

Don was a regular at Ted Wiederseim’s auctions and Ted noted Don was “was extremely honest, extremely professional and a quintessential gentleman… just a terrific guy. He is going to be greatly missed in the antiques world and our part of Pennsylvania.”

Sharing Don’s passion for needlework were Stephen and Carol Huber, whom Don and Ruth met at a Chester County antiques show many years ago where both were exhibitors. “Much to our surprise, their booth was filled with wonderful needlework and thus began a long friendship sharing common interests,” the Hubers said.

“Don was always a great dinner companion or houseguest and enthusiastically appreciated the camaraderie of friends and listening or telling good jokes and stories.”

They noted Don’s insatiable curiosity. “He loved learning, comparing, examining and gaining knowledge about new objects. And, of course, a true antiques dealer — he loved the hunt.”

Don is survived by his wife of 20 years, Ruth J. Van Tassel Baumann. Don’s two ex-wives who showed particular grace and kindness to Ruth during his illness are Judy Schroeder of Bryn Mawr, mother of Hillary Baumann Maclean of Charlotte, N.C., and Lynne Baumann of Paoli, Penn., mother of Donald Otto Baumann Jr of Philadelphia and Sarah Elizabeth Baumann of Los Angeles.

Don is also survived by his grandchildren Emma Faustin Maclean and Richard Thomas Maclean Jr, brother-in-law Joseph H. Van Tassel III, father of Jesse Van Tassel and Rachel Van Tassel, and sister- in-law Gretchen Van Tassel McCloskey, mother of Gwendolyn McCloskey, both of Glen Mills. Another person very special to Don and Ruth is Heather Lentz, Jesse Van Tassel’s mother, also of Glen Mills.

Son of the late Mae Emma (nee Capuret) and Otto Faustin Bauman, Don was born in Abington Township, Montgomery County, and grew up in Meadowbrook, Penn. He graduated from William Penn Charter School, Class of 1953, and attended University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

He served in the Army National Guard from September 1957 to June 1963 with honorable discharge and a rank of staff sergeant. He was also awarded as a rifle sharpshooter.

A memorial service will take place Sunday, February 16, from 10 am to 10:45 am at the Meeting on the Campus at the William Penn Charter School, 3000 West School House Lane, Philadelphia, with a reception to follow at the nearby Timmons House 11-12.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Salvation Army, 701 North Broad Street, Philadelphia PA 19123; the William Penn Charter School for the Scholarship Program 3000 West School House Lane, Philadelphia PA 19144 or the Leukemia Society Donor Services, PO Box 4072 Pittsfield MA 01202.               —Andrea Valluzzo

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