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Brian Willhide, Forum Communications, Published September 21 2012

Peggy Lee’s daughter visits artist’s former home

WIMBLEDON, N.D. — It was an emotional trip back in time Wednesday for Nicki Lee Foster, daughter of famous jazz artist Peggy Lee.

Foster, 68, traveled nearly 1,100 miles from Twin Falls, Idaho, along with her son David to get her first look at the Midland Continental Railroad Depot Transportation Museum in Wimbledon. The depot was home to Foster’s mother from 1934 to 1937 prior to the Jamestown-born artist launching a more than 60-year career as a singer, songwriter and actress.

A tribute to Lee and her career is now on display on the second floor of the museum for the public to see.

Foster was unable to attend the grand opening of the museum back in May because she was still recovering from a broken femur she suffered about three years ago.

“I didn’t know if I was ever going to see it,” Foster said. “I had to work really hard with my physical therapist to get to the point where I could be here today.”

This marked Foster’s first vacation trip away from her Idaho home in three years.

After touring the renovated depot with family, friends, volunteers and depot renovation committee members for about 2 1/2 hours Wednesday, Foster sat down to discuss her impressions of what she saw.

“For a community this size to put together something of this quality is just extraordinary,” she said.

Foster reflected on what her mother would think about seeing the museum if the famous entertainer was still alive today.

“She would be so happy. She would just love it,” Foster said. “I honestly think she would be both astounded and delighted.”

Seeing the museum also brought back personal memories from Foster’s childhood.

“As I went through earlier, there were a lot of things that had personal meaning to me also. There were gowns, shoes and hats I can remember her wearing — things I’d look at and say ‘I remember that,’” Foster said. “In a way, it was like I was looking at my own history, too.”

When Lee passed away in January 2002, Foster said it was important the family stayed close together and tried to preserve her memory.

“We knew it was our job to make sure her memory would carry on, and that’s what you all have done here,” Foster said, speaking to the depot volunteers and renovation committee members who were present Wednesday.

Foster said now that the museum exists, it will go a long way toward helping achieve a family goal they’ve had since Lee’s death.

“This is about keeping her legacy going and being able to have newer generations respect and appreciate her,” she said. “After all, she was a Renaissance woman — she did everything.”

Since opening to the public Memorial Day weekend, 558 people have come through the museum, representing 33 states and foreign countries such as Mexico and Canada in addition to the continent of Africa.

“That’s just those that have come through and signed the guest book,” said Mary Beth Orn, treasurer of the museum and daughter of Myrna Bultema — whose estate donated $20,000 to kick off the depot restoration project back in 2007.

The Midland Continental Railroad Depot Transportation Museum is now only open by appointment until next summer. For more information, visit www.mid landcontinentaldepot.com.