BOSTON (CBS) – A painting that hung in the Gardner High School principal’s office for nearly 50 years sold for $1.9 million at auction Wednesday.

The 1941 painting “Willie Gillis in Convoy” was a gift from Norman Rockwell to former principal Earl Williams in the 1950’s.

The Rockwell original depicts a World War II soldier in the back of a truck with several comrades.

The painting was part of a series for the Saturday Evening Post, but this particular one never made the cover.

It hung in the principal’s office until about 1999, when it was put in storage.

It went on the auction block at Sotheby’s in New York Wednesday morning.

“It’s been hidden in the schools for the last 15 years because there was some nervousness about the chance of it being stolen,” Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 Wednesday.

“When we discovered the potential worth, we said, ‘We can’t afford to insure it, we can’t afford to secure it, we can’t afford to care for it properly, so this might be an opportunity to start a foundation for the Gardner public schools.”

Hawke said he did not know who bought the painting.

“This is an incredible step forward.  We’re going to set up a foundation to benefit the Gardner Public Schools and the school children of the city of Gardner for generations to come.”



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