1/2/2013 8:43:00 AM Package arrives - 47 years later
One of the busiest places in Windom in the days leading up to Christmas is the local branch of the U.S. Postal Service. They deal with hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail in the month before Christmas including everything from Christmas cards to letters to Santa to packages that are, no doubt, gifts bound for loved ones.
So, what would cause the local post office to take note of a worn package just a few days before Christmas?
How about a postmark?
Indeed, this was a Christmas mystery that sent the local postal employees abuzz with curiosity and a certain degree of excitement.
On this worn and taped package addressed to Arthur M. Johnson at 1125 6th Ave., Windom, MN 56101 from Lutheran Brotherhood in Minneapolis was a postmark that read: "MINNEAPOLIS MINN OCT 19 '66."
And it was that " '66" that caught the attention of City Carrier Tina Cotter.
"I brought it back in and didn't actually catch the date on it at first until I really started looking at it," Cotter explains. "That's when I thought I had better bring this to Kim's attention and see what we want to do with this; maybe find where this person is or where they're living now and get it to them.
"There was no other postmark on it and I thought it was kind of odd that there weren't any of our newer postmarks. Then I started to look closer at the date. I thought, 'Wow! This can't be right.' But it was."
She was delivering a package 47 years and a couple of months overdue.
"She brought it to the office and said, 'This person no longer lives here. What should I do with it?' And I was thinking, 'Do what you always do when someone doesn't live there anymore,' " says Postmaster Kim Gore. "And she says, 'No. Look at the postage.'
"I couldn't believe. My first reaction was to turn the package over and look for any indication of where it had been and why it's showing up now. But there is no indication on the package whatsoever where it's been."
The package was bulging with a hand-written message on the front: "Pictures of Nixon cartoons etc.!"
Now, Cotter was unable to deliver the package to Arthur Johnson because Arthur died July 7, 1982, at 86 years of age. He was born in Heron Lake and lived either on a farm near Heron Lake or in Heron Lake until he and his wife, Angene, moved to Windom in 1932. They lived in Windom the rest of their lives except for two years spent in California.
Gore, with the help of Mary Hansen at the City of Windom office, gleaned that information from an obituary archived at the Cottonwood County Historical Society. Director Linda Fransen and her team also discovered that not only had Johnson died, but his daughter, Delores Onkka, as well. His son, William, is living in Florida.
However, they didn't learn about Art's children until contacting a surviving grandson, John Onkka, who lives in Baldwin, Wis. Fransen contacted John by phone and he was excited to learn he would be receiving the package.
"It's been fun for everyone involved," Gore says.
For more on this story, see the Faith & Family page in the Jan. 2 issue of the Cottonwood County Citizen on newsstands today.