Social media helps family reclaim treasured Powderhorn porch swing
It was a simple red swing that hung on the front porch of the late Mildred Miller’s home a block off Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, just big enough for a grandma and several squirming grandkids.
But because of some miscommunication among family members, it was sold at a yard sale during the neighborhood’s annual May Day festivities.
Some family members were crushed and launched an online campaign to recover the swing. “We are heartbroken that such an iconic symbol of our beloved Mildred is lost from our family,” wrote daughter-in-law Shari Albers.
Within 24 hours of her post on that Powderhorn Issues Forum, “a kind woman from across Powderhorn Lake” had offered to return the swing.
That means Miller’s eight grandchildren and their 10 children may get a chance to read to their grandkids on it some day.
Miller died last October at 94. She became a fixture on the porch of the house, which she and her late husband bought in 1965, greeting neighbors, reading or writing poetry. In fact, she almost named the collection of poems she published at around age 80 after the red swing, Albers said, and several poems refer to it.
“Whenever it wasn’t winter, she was on it,” Albers said.
The job of cleaning out the house fell to sons Bob and David. Relatives claimed bookcases, tables, chairs, letters, her collection of buttons. Everything claimed was supposed to have been tagged before the sale. The swing lacked a tag, and Bob Miller figured the next owner of the house would probably junk it.
Somebody offered $25 for it. “I said, ‘Fine, go take it,’ ” he said.
The sale created a crisis when a third sibling, Barb Thornbrough, discovered the swing was gone. She reported it to Albers. “I was afraid to tell my kids,” she said.
Instead, Albers began driving to Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where her late husband, Steven, is buried. It’s where she goes when she’s upset.
“On the way it dawned on me — social media,” she said. “Divine intervention!” She turned to the Powderhorn online forum, an offshoot of the online community-building nonprofit E-democracy.org.
It is not the first time the forum helped a neighbor in need. In 2010, a Powderhorn resident who was desperate for a last-minute way to get a bulk wheel of Gouda to a national cheese competition in Seattle, asked whether anyone from the area was flying there. Within 90 minutes, he had a hit from a retired airline employee with standby privileges who said she’d been looking for an excuse to go to Seattle.
If there’s anyone who should be attuned to the value of front porch swings in promoting neighborliness, it’s Bob Miller. He was the longtime director of neighborhood revitalization in Minneapolis.