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Auctioneer used gavel to help local charities


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POSTED: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Martin "Marty" McClain, an auctioneer and a fixture in the Chinatown arts district community, died Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 58.

McClain spent his last moments at a hospital, surrounded by family and friends.

An estate auction scheduled for Saturday was canceled in memory of McClain, who was known for his philanthropic work as well as his auctioneering skills.

"We did so many auctions together," said longtime friend Don Murphy of Murphy's Bar & Grill. "I was always amazed how he could stand on his feet and do auctions for four to five hours. He could really work a crowd. He was a great, fun guy."

Murphy, who was friends with McClain for 20 years, said he believes McClain raised between $15 million and $20 million for charities during his lifetime.

Besides athletic programs at the University of Hawaii, McClain used his auctioneering skills for a broad range of programs, ranging from the Hawaiian Humane Society to the March of Dimes.

"Every time there was an event, he'd do whatever he could to help out," said Murphy. "That's the kind of thing he did."

Musician Henry Kapono, another close friend, said he'd miss McClain's generous spirit.

"He always helped everybody," said Kapono. "He was a really great man. He had a big heart, and he's probably the best auctioneer in the state that I know of."

Kapono met McClain right before opening Kapono's at Aloha Tower Marketplace in the summer of 2001. Though it closed in 2005, he recalls how much McClain helped in getting it open, and they became good friends afterward.

McClain Auctions moved to its current location at 1 King St. from Kakaako about three years ago. He would often lend his windows to those in the neighborhood for advertisements.

McClain was in the auctioneering business for three decades, auctioning everything from large local estates to jewelry, fine art, antiques and Hawaiiana.

"He was a good neighbor," said Sandy Pohl, owner of the Louis Pohl gallery. "We're going to miss him. People in the neighborhood really thought he was wonderful."

McClain is survived by wife Wendy; daughter Nicole; and three brothers who live on the mainland.

A special celebration in honor of McClain's life is scheduled at Murphy's Bar & Grill at 2 Merchant St. from 1 to 4 p.m. March 7.

"Come and celebrate his life," said Murphy. "He wanted to have a good, ol' Irish wake, which is what we're going to do."