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Minnesota woman finds unexpected connection to her mother in 1954 magazine

Norma Monson doesn't have many photographs of her mother. But one of her favorites was taken in 1954 and shows her mom reading the February issue of a magazine called Woman's Home Companion. A timely set of coincidences recently brought a copy of that magazine into Monson's home — and heart.

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Norma Monson, of Spicer, holds a treasured photo of her mother reading a February 1954 issue of the Woman’s Home Companion while Linda Berge, of Alexandria, holds a copy of that same issue. Berge purchased about 75 Woman’s Home Companion magazines this summer at a sale and posted them individually for sale on Ebay. That got the attention of Monson who sought another connection with her late mother. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
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SPICER, Minn. — It was February in 1954 — likely a Sunday afternoon when the Thostenson family was still dressed up after going to church — that the snapshot of Norma Mary Thostenson was taken.

The pretty, dark-haired 32-year-old woman is sitting on a couch, wearing an A-line skirt, one leg tucked under the other and reading the February issue of Woman’s Home Companion magazine that featured a big piece of lemon meringue pie on the cover.

The smile on Thostenson’s face can be seen over the top of the massive magazine that covers much of her torso.

A small black-and-white photo of that brief moment in time has been long treasured by Norma Jean Monson of Spicer, Minn., who wasn’t yet born when the picture of her mother, and namesake, was taken.

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This photo, taken in 1954, shows a 32-year-old Norma xxx reading the Woman's Home Companion magazine. Norma's daughter, Norma Monson of Spicer, found a copy of that same magazine this summer through an unusual set of circumstances that brought the magazine -- and an old friend and neighbor -- into her home. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

Thostenson died when she was 65 years old, and Monson said there was “a lot of mothering I still wanted.” That made the rare photo of her mother even more dear to her.

But she always wondered why the photo of her busy mom “enjoying some time sitting still” was taken in the first place.

Perhaps it had something to do with the piece of lemon meringue pie on the cover of the oversized magazine. Lemon meringue pie was a hands-down family favorite and her mom was “quite good” at making it, Monson said.

This summer a set of circumstances brought a copy of that same magazine — and a former neighbor and friend — into Monson’s home to help complete a connection with her mother.

Linda Berge used to live down the road from Monson on Green Lake before moving to Alexandria, Minn., where she started selling items on eBay as a hobby.

A few months ago, a neighbor in the Alexandria area had a large garage sale and invited Berge to come take a look. There, she found a box with about 75 magazines from the 1950s. Most of them were Woman’s Home Companion.

Berge bought the tub of magazines, took pictures of each one and posted them individually for sale on eBay for $10 each.

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Monson hadn’t seen Berge for some time but followed her on eBay and got a notification when the magazines were posted.

She’d barely started scrolling through the collection when she saw a copy of the same magazine her mother was holding in the snapshot.

Monson called Berge immediately, quite excited to see that her friend was in possession of a magazine that had — for some reason —been important to Monson’s mother.

"Norma said, 'That's the magazine my mom is holding,'" Berge said. “Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. What are the odds?”

Berge immediately pulled the magazine off eBay.

They met halfway in Glenwood, Minn., in July for lunch and to exchange the magazine.

“She wouldn’t take the 10 dollars,” Monson said with a laugh.

“I told her I could make up the revenue elsewhere,” said Berge, who is thrilled she could give something to her friend that provides an important connection to her mother.

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Monson, who has the magazine displayed together with the snapshot, has enjoyed paging through the magazine to see what kind of articles and advertisements her mom was reading about.

“I guess it was important for women to look nice and have good skin, and pose with aprons,” she said.

The two women marvel at the chain of events that made it happen and how easily one missed step could’ve broken that connection.

“When I see how much that magazine means to her, it just warms my heart,” Berge said.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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