Every day Kate Orso scours the internet looking for her belongings that were auctioned off from the storage unit she was renting in Skowhegan.

There’s the 100-year-old steamer trunk with the image of a woman on the underside of the lid that belonged to her mother, a Nantucket lightship basket, Madame Alexander doll, antiques that had been in her family for three generations, a lot of precious family photos.

Some of the items aren’t particularly valuable, but to Orso, 68, they are priceless.

Kate Orso Courtesy photo

“There’s a wooden box that my son made me when he was 12,” Orso said, her voice breaking. “It was a plain wooden box that had aged over the years, made of thin wood. It had just aged to a golden brown.”

Orso called me this week to see if I could help spread the word that she is trying to find her possessions and is willing to buy them back from whomever purchased them.

She had been living for several years in a small house on her son’s property in Norridgewock. In 2021, after her other son died in a car crash in that town, she was invited to live with her cousins in North Carolina. So she put most of her belongings in a 5-by-5-foot self-storage unit at Skowhegan Self-Storage on Waterville Road in Skowhegan. She signed a contract Aug. 8, 2022, with the understanding the $25 rent would be paid automatically through her bank, monthly.


She visited the storage unit a few times, removing some small items to take with her to North Carolina, but many remained, including her bed, all her linens, pots and pans, dishes, and of course, the antiques. She moved south in January.

She learned two weeks ago that Herget Group LLC, an investment management firm based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, bought Skowhegan Self-Storage last September and had auctioned off her storage unit last month. She immediately called the company and a woman named Cathy told her they had been unable to reach her by phone or letter to tell her they could not process the bank checks being sent them for her storage unit.

Cathy had written in February to a company Orso’s bank uses to send checks automatically to the storage company. The letter, dated Feb. 24, says the storage business could not process the checks through their system, hadn’t been able to reach Orso and was returning the checks uncashed. The company that sent the checks on Orso’s behalf had provided the storage company with an old address for Orso, so it was unable to contact her.

“They should have mailed a notice to the address on my contract, telling me they had purchased the storage company,” Orso said.

She urges anyone who thinks they may have some of her belongings, including photos, to email her at grammiek8@hotmail.com.

“It was like losing a family member — it hit me that hard,” Orso said. “I’ve posted on every swap and sale place in Maine. I search every day. I actually strained my eyes doing this. I’m just obsessed with finding one item, please. I just want to purchase some of my stuff back.”


The items include a 10-inch-tall ceramic pitcher in the shape of Bo Peep, two wooden firkins, a 5-gallon beige and brown jug, a miniature cast iron sand-and-gravel wagon pulled by a horse, and a white bowl and pitcher with pussy willows in it that was packed in the steamer trunk.

In an effort to find answers, I called Skowhegan Self-Storage on Tuesday to inquire about Orso’s unit. A woman named Cathy answered, apparently the same woman Orso had spoken with earlier, and said she couldn’t talk to me about it, she was not able to give me any information and there was no one else there, such as a supervisor, who could speak to me.

“I appreciate that you’re trying to help her,” Cathy said. “I appreciate the call, but I can’t help you.”

I then called the Herget Group at the Portsmouth phone number and again got Cathy, who said it would be illegal for her to speak to me about Orso’s case. I asked to speak with someone else, such as the company owner, and she said she had spoken with him and he didn’t want to comment. She told me not to call again, and hung up.

Orso, meanwhile, is frantically looking for her things, which were in Unit A1 at the storage business. Retired from a job where she cared for seniors in their homes, she hopes to move back to Maine. She is on waiting lists at three senior living places here.

“I keep hoping that maybe someone bought the storage unit and they haven’t had a chance to go through it,” she said. “That would be the miracle.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 34 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She is the author of the book “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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