Thomas Mesquita of the Norman Rockwell Museum prepares the front entrance for opening this weekend, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in Stockbridge, Ma. Credit: Ben Garver / The Berkshire Eagle via AP

WINCHENDON, Mass. — A veterans organization in Massachusetts sold an original 1945 Norman Rockwell painting for $3.6 million at auction over the weekend in order to raise funds after years of dwindling revenue made worse by the pandemic.

American Legion Post 193, located in Winchendon, acquired the painting through a donation in 1959 from a local priest’s art collection. Coral May Grout, a former Post president, said that after weighing whether to sell for nearly two decades, it was time, The Telegram & Gazette reported.

“Home for Thanksgiving” depicts a soldier seated beside his mother, who looks at him lovingly while he peels potatoes. It was commissioned for the November 24, 1945 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The auction listing described the painting as “the tale of the first Thanksgiving after the Allies’ victory.”

The artwork hung near the Legion’s main door for years, with most members assuming it was a reproduction. They got the painting appraised in the early 1980s after someone offered to buy it for $500, the newspaper said. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge has since kept it safe, occasionally displaying it in special exhibits.

But faced with the choice of closing the Post permanently or parting with the Rockwell, members decided to sell.

There were estimations the painting could go for up to $7 million, but it ended up fetching $3.6 million, and the Legion will receive additional funds negotiated with the auction house, the newspaper said.