It was a Wednesday morning, around 10 a.m. when Rick Biro checked his email.
He clicked through and responded to some clients, sent a note to his daughter, and as he was about to sign off, he noticed an email come in with the subject line: Great Grandmother’s Pitcher.
To Mr. Richard Biro, the email began.
I have been very remiss in writing to you about the repairs you did on this family heirloom a year and a half ago. I am sure that you don’t remember, but when I brought it to you, I cried when you told me that you could fix it. I could not have asked for more than the absolutely beautiful repair you did on this piece.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from the generations who will enjoy it in the years to come.
“This family heirloom” that Martie Gullion is referring to is an elegant, yet stunning pitcher from the late 1800s that belonged to her great grandmother. And it was ready for the junkyard, says Martie, before she found Biro and Sons.
The pitcher was a wedding gift given to Martie’s great grandparents. “It was always in a special place in my great grandmother’s home,” Martie remembers, “and it was always such a special piece for me.”
Martie’s great grandparents lived a simple life in southern Illinois. Both first-generation Americans, the duo cherished their home and their family. When they died, the pitcher was passed down and eventually became Martie’s.
Because Martie’s husband was in the military, they moved from southern Illinois to Utah, to Texas, to England, to Nebraska, to Nevada, and finally to Auburn, California where they settled after retirement. As the Gullion family moved, so did their great grandmother’s pitcher.
It was in the late 60s, however, that the pitcher got knocked over and the handle broke off.
“I couldn’t find anyone who knew anything about gluing something like, so I just carried it with me,” Martie recounts.
When the Gullion family was in England, they got the pitcher repaired, but not successfully. As the years went by, the glue from the original repair turned yellow. Then the pitcher got knocked over again, this time falling on a brick hearth by the fireplace. The handle was even worse than before, and the sterling silver top was now bent and cracked.
“I thought it was probably a piece of trash for the dump, but I just couldn’t do that,” Martie explains.
The Gullion family was desperate for a solution. Sometime later, while reading an article in the local Auburn newspaper about a company in San Francisco that had restored Tevis Cup trophies, they found one.
“I cut the article out and kept it for many years,” Martie says. “One day when my husband and I were coming down to San Francisco I said ‘let’s take the pitcher and see if Biro and Sons can do something with it.'”
Martie remembers crying in the shop when Rick Biro told her they could fix it. “Because it just meant so much to me,” Martie explains, with the same emotions from that day beginning to come up again.
“One of the greatest joys of this work is telling families that their most treasured possessions can be restored,” Rick says.
After 12 hours of work, meticulously creating a curved sterling silver tube to replace the pieces of the handle that had broken off, the Biro team fit it all together.
They then straightened the sterling out, and silver soldered the seam of the pouring spout back together.
It was Christmas Day, and Martie’s present sat perfectly under the tree, waiting for her to open it.
When she did, she began crying. It was the pitcher, just as she had remembered it. Her husband had gone back to Biro and Sons and picked up the finished piece without her knowing.
“It was just perfect,” Martie recalls, “it’s so incredibly made and what a wonderful piece to be able to pass onto my daughter and then my granddaughter.”
Today, the pitcher sits on display front and center in the Gullion home.
“It’s a piece the whole family enjoys looking at because it’s so incredible,” Martie says, as she begins to choke up again.