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Winchendon American Legion Post Selling Original Norman Rockwell Painting To Raise Money For Repairs

WINCHENDON (CBS) -- American Legion Post 193 has been serving the Winchendon Community for over 60 years at 295 School Street.

"I had my wedding reception here, my daughter had her wedding reception here," said Mark Desmarias, Senior Vice Commander of American Legion Post 193.

The building is in desperate need of repairs.

"There's a lot to do and these are not $1,000 projects. A parking lot with paint- you're talking -$20-25,000," said Housing Board Chairman Ken LaBrack.

For that reason, the veteran's organization is reluctantly parting with one of their most prized possessions: Norman Rockwell's original painting "Home For Thanksgiving," which was donated to the post when they moved to a new building in 1959.

"One day a gentleman came in and said I'll offer you $500 for that painting and that's the moment we said we better look into this. We brought it down to the Rockwell Museum and they verified it was an original," said LaBrack.

Norman Rockwell's 'Home For Thanksgiving' (WBZ-TV)

Amazingly for 35 years, the original painting hung not far from the front door, with members of the Post assuming it was a replica— and unaware of its value.

"Anybody could have reached up and grabbed it and walked out the front door and we would've never even probably missed it to tell you the truth," said LaBrack.

The painting was loaned to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge for safekeeping, where it stayed for nearly five decades.

Unlike the days when it hung unassumingly on the Post's wall, now its value is well known and the organization admits selling the painting is bittersweet.

The painting is expected to go for more than $4 million during Heritage Auctions' American Art event, which closes on Friday.

It's a significant amount that will help Post 193 for years to come.

"For me to see that we're going to have the money to restore our burner, the boiler, and the roof and the parking lot and bring it back to the life that it was, that's going to be nice and heartwarming," said Desmarais.

With a laugh, Past President of American Legion Post 193 Coral May Grout said, "I hope that many people will get the opportunity to enjoy it knowing it's a Rockwell when we never did."

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