Needing Repairs, Winchendon American Legion Post Selling Original Norman Rockwell Painting

The painting, entitled "Home For Thanksgiving," is now up for auction. Live bids will start Friday afternoon.

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On a busy road in Winchendon, Massachusetts, American Legion Post 193 has stood the test of time. Time, though, is now starting to show.

"This needs a lot more than a little TLC," Ken LaBreck, with the post, said.

Everywhere you look, something inside the building needs to be fixed. Decades of use are now catching up at the worst time.

The Post's major sources of income -- memberships and renting out its large hall for events -- crashed during the pandemic, and still have not rebounded.

"This is a big facility, it is a beautiful facility, it has a lot of bills, and when you don't have the income to pay those bills, the next thing you know, we won't be around," said Mark Desmarais.

While the American Legion Post lacked funds, it did have a secret -- a secret that could turn into a solution.

Back when the building was first being built, members spread out around the Winchendon community looking to raise money for the new building.

Carol May Grout says at one stop, her father went inside to meet with the community's Catholic priest. The Father donated $500 and told Grout's father to pick one painting from his collection resting on the floor.

Grout says the painting depicting a mother and her grown son, dressed in military gear, spoke to her father and he picked that one.

For years, the painting hung in the Post, above the main staircase. After some 30 years, a man attending an event at the Post offered members $500 for it.

They declined, and decided to take a closer look at it. Turns out, the painting is an original Norman Rockwell.

"Oh it stopped my heart!" said Aviva Lehmann, with Heritage Auctions.

Lehmann knows art and says demand for original paintings by Rockwell remain high.

Knowing that, this past summer the Post started deliberating about selling the painting. It wasn't an easy discussion.

"There will be lots of tears on my part because I was brought up around this painting," Grout said. "It is very hard for me."

The painting, entitled "Home For Thanksgiving," is now up for auction. Live bids will start Friday afternoon. Lehmann says it will fetch at least $4 million.

" I think Friday when it finally auctions off and the gavel comes down sold, it is going to be tough," LaBreck said.

The Post says it has already met with a financial advisor and has a strict plan on how it will handle any proceeds. That plan is to never touch the principal and use the interest to start tackling the long list of issues to be fixed at the Post.

The feelings here are mixed. Many are relieved to start fixing up this building, even if the cost is no longer owning an iconic piece of art.

"There will be tears on Friday but it is done, we are moving in the right direction and I hope and expect that my dad would agree," Grout said.

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