Lost and found family heirloom helps grieving widow find solace in the midst of her irreparable loss

Many of the neighbors of the Marge Ostroushko apartment building in Minneapolis are other baby boomers who have decided to downsize. Ostrushko’s arrival was rushed – as was his decision to drop a lifetime of possessions.

“People are downsizing for many reasons. My reason was made for me,” she said. “It wasn’t my choice, but it was my time.”

In 2018, Ostroushko moved into one-bedroom, disabled-accessible accommodation that could meet the needs of her husband, Peter, who, at 64, suffered a sudden and devastating stroke.

Peter Ostroushko’s paralysis put an end to his famous musical career. World-renowned mandolin player, fiddler and singer, Ostroushko has entertained radio audiences like a regular at “A Prairie Home Companion” for four decades. The self-taught virtuoso has composed, toured, recorded albums and soundtracks, and collaborated with dozens of music legends.

“I remember the day his doctor told us he would never get the use of his hands back and never play the mandolin again,” said Marge. “We sat outside ‘U’ medical center and cried and cried together.”

When it became clear that Peter wouldn’t be able to return to the two-story house where they had raised their daughter, Marge was forced to make many difficult and devoid of feelings decisions.

“When a person is in a wheelchair, space is important for them to be able to move around. There is no room for bookcases, a dresser or my grandmother’s table,” he said. she declared. “I didn’t have the luxury of sitting down with our things and brooding. If it didn’t work, it was gone.”

For three years, the couple lived in their apartment, while Peter worked to rebuild himself and produced a podcast based on his music with his daughter Anna.

And then, last February, Peter’s heart broke. He died at 67.

Faced with his deepest grief, Marge Ostroushko learned that not all of his losses are irrecoverable.


Now alone, Marge realized that one of the things she had thrown away might give her some comfort.

“A month after Peter died, I woke up and thought, ‘I want my table. Of all the thousands of things that I gave up, this is what I landed on, “she said.” It was the physical embodiment of all that was good in my life.

Although the table had belonged to her family for generations, she had sold it because Peter’s wheelchair could not fit on it.

“When I got rid of everything my vision was nearsighted and I understand why,” she said. “When I was sorting, I never thought, ‘Someday I might want this. I didn’t imagine him dying. I couldn’t imagine a life without him. “

Marge believed that the table, an almost 100-year-old piece of furniture, had been a folly for her paternal grandparents, who immigrated from Vienna and settled in New York. Three generations of his family celebrated the holidays and Sunday dinners around the table. When Marge inherited it early in her married life, she had it shipped to Minnesota.

“Peter loved cooking Ukrainian food – pierogies, borscht, beetroot horseradish sausage. So many musicians sat around the table before and after the shows, eating, talking and laughing,” he said. she declared.

Getting rid of the table had been easy. Getting it back seemed impossible.

Shortly after Peter had his stroke, Marge was overwhelmed by the babysitting and tried to sell their house. She accepted the offer of help from her friend Jane Kohnen. Kohnen’s has advertised and sold some of the Ostroushko furniture online. The table went to $ 150.

When Marge changed her mind, Kohnen made several unsuccessful attempts to reach the buyer. Ultimately, Marge accepted the loss.

“I was like, ‘Well, this is his table, it is like that. Some things are not within the realm of possibility and I have to do without.’ “


While her husband had a very public personality, Marge had a distinguished career behind the scenes as a producer of radio shows and live events. She also co-founded Giving Voice Chorus, which creates choir groups for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their care partners.

After graduating from college in Ohio, Marge followed friends to the Twin Cities, where she worked as a temp. A chance encounter with Garrison Keillor and some members of the Prairie Home Companion team led to her volunteering at the box office, which turned into a part-time gig with the popular radio show. Promoted to associate producer, she was on staff when the show went national in 1980.

“It was amazing to be a part of something so creative that has evolved over the years,” she said. “We even knew back then that it was something special.”

She had crossed paths with the musician who would become her husband, but they did not speak to each other until they attended a company holiday party. At the time, Peter was on tour with a folk duo. As their relationship grew serious, Marge issued an ultimatum.

“I told him that I would not be living with someone who was gone more than he is home and he made the decision to resign,” she said. “When he told Garrison that, he offered Peter the job of music director and then we were both working on the show.”

They married in 1981. Peter, she said, often expressed his affection.

“He was screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘I love my wife. My wife 100%. My USDA, US Department of Love, wife,'” she said.


This October would have been the couple’s 40th wedding anniversary. Marge marked the date with their traditional steak dinner, which she shared with her daughter.

Mother and daughter face their first vacation season without Peter. But they have one thing to look forward to: eating their Thanksgiving meal together at Marge’s table, which surfaced in an “almost miraculous” way.

Long after Marge lost all hope of getting the table back, the woman who bought it suddenly responded to months-old online queries, which had gone to an email account she no longer used.

“Turns out she was moving the next day and wasn’t going to have a room for the table. A day later it could have been on the sidewalk,” Marge said. “When she told me I could come get him, I started to laugh and cry at the same time.

“When Anna saw the table, she jumped on it and said, ‘I’m so glad you’re back!’ “said Marge. “It makes such a difference to have this part of my past and my family with me. It’s a happy ending.”

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