By Dale Ryman
ANIWA, Wis. (WSAW) – “Hit ‘em again now. 20 dollar make you holler,” the auctioneer belts over the PA.
“The first auction I did I didn’t sleep all night. Really nerve racking,” said Duke Packard.
“You never get bored,” Kathy Packard said. “I love what I do.”
Kathy Packard, and her husband Duke, work together at North Central Sales Auctions. A business Duke started in 1996.
“My dad said, I’ve done everything from hauling cattle to doing whatever,” Duke said. “The money’s in the auction business, he said. And I never forgot that. I had a lawn and garden business then. I just kind of did a change in life.”
Two years later, Duke met Kathy.
“I was in sales, and dentistry. Met my husband, and he was an auctioneer.”
But Kathy’s introduction into what would become the family business, was as quick as her chant.
“I, myself, kind of fell into it,” Kathy said.
”I actually had to go to the bathroom. I said, you’re going to sell for a while,” Duke recalled with a laugh.
”I had the skillset,” said Kathy.
“She’s like, No I can’t do that,” said Duke.
“From there it took off,” Kathy said.
“She struggled a little bit,” said Duke with a smile, “but got going and I’ve been backing her ever since.”
All the way to Kathy winning the Wisconsin Auctioneers Association state championship in 2018.
“It’s not just the bid calling, it’s also a live interview. You know if you win then you sell at the Governor’s auction and it’s a big deal,” she said.
But being auctioneer isn’t always bid calls and filler words. There’s a personal level to it.
“You know every little auction I do it takes a little piece out of you,” said Duke. You drive out of a farm, and say guess what, there’s a farm not coming back.”
“At the end of the day you do your job,” said Kathy, “you make a difference and people walk away and you feel like you’ve made an impact in your community.”
In good times and bad, family is always there. Grandma Patty is at every event, along with brothers, sisters and their children, including Gary who’s also an auctioneer.
“Folks needed a hand with our bigger sales. It’s nice to have three auctioneers so you can change out and everybody can take a break,” Gary said.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s interesting and fun,” said Duke’s mom Pat Packard, known affectionately as ‘Grandma Patty. “Like Duke said, when it’s no longer fun it’s just a job.”
As for the future, the industry is changing. The Packards are changing, too. Together.
“Kathy is my closer. She always has been and she always will be.”
He’s my biggest fan, and he’s my biggest supporter. And he’s my best friend. It’s a win-win when we work together.”
Sometimes they do celebrate their love on the auction block.
One day while working an auction, Duke actually bid on some flowers for Kathy because it fell on their anniversary.
When retirement eventually rolls around, the plan is for their son Gary to take over the business.