Collector Died in His Element

He was one of those guys who got up before dawn, just to be the first one through the gates of the flea market just in case another collector might have the same idea, but show up a few minutes later.

It often paid big dividends.

Doug Wielinski grew up with sports cards and never quit collecting.  Even before the values exploded in the 1980s, he was buying.  He had a huge collection and he loved baseball history.  The married father of four daughters was working on a vintage baseball puzzle 2 1/2 years ago about the time Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed short of the Buffalo airport.  It hit the family home hard, exploding in a giant fireball.

His wife and a daughter who was home that night, managed to escape, but Doug Wielinski was killed along with 50 others on the plane.

Doug’s favorite sports memorabilia was inside the home and most of it was obliterated.  He stored the rest in the family garage, which was spared somewhat, but covered with jet fuel and fire retardant.

A Texas salvage company combed through the wreckage and returned what they could, but not before cutting away every piece of dried liquid.  It turns out there isn’t much to salvage.

In one of the best stories you’ll read all year, USA Today’s Erik Brady talked with Doug’s wife Karen and a long-time collecting friend, Jim Maciejewski.