Gnome resurfaces 40 years after theft

Four decades after her hand-painted gnome was stolen off her front yard, Suzanne Toftey makes a stunning discovery

SAINT CLOUD, Minn. – A heist pulled off 40 Christmases ago has been solved, at least partially.

Minnesota artist Suzanne Toftey finally knows the whereabouts of her hand-painted plywood gnome, stolen four decades ago from her front yard Christmas display.

“He was in captivity,” Suzanne says, laughing.

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Suzanne spotted the grinning gnome across a strip mall parking lot when she and her husband Jack stopped for lunch at Arby’s. “I said, ‘Jack, there’s my gnome.’”

Jack was skeptical at first, but closer inspection left no doubt. “There’s none other like it anywhere,” Suzanne says.

The gnome was standing upright, welcoming customers to the Uff-Da Records store, which specializes in new and used vinyl recordings.

“Then we went into the store and Jack was kind of gruff to the man,” Susan says. “He said, ‘Where did you get that gnome?’"

Like Suzanne, Uff-Da owner Jeffrey Pederson is of Norwegian heritage.

He quickly became smitten with the gnome he picked up at a garage sale about 10 years ago. “Everyone needs a gnome,” Jeffrey quips.

The record store owner says the woman from whom he purchased the gnome told him she too bought it at a garage sale.

Suzanne Toftee's gnome 

Where the gnome was hiding before that, is anyone’s guess. When Suzanne first reported it stolen, a police dispatcher suggested the gnome was probably already hanging in a college dorm room.

The dispatcher, nonetheless, asked Suzanne for a description. “’I said, ‘Yes, he has a blue jacket and a real tall red pointy hat and lots of whiskers.’”

Suzanne has gained fame as a painter of Norwegian folk art. Her work can be found in gift shops from Scandinavia to North America.

Still, her Gnome was special – which makes what happened next all the more interesting.

Wanting to the do the right thing, Jeffrey asked Suzanne if she’d like her gnome back.

The artist pondered that question, then decided to leave her gnome right where she found him, in front of Uff-Da records.

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“Oh, he was smiling. He was very happy,” Suzanne says gleefully.

Reflecting on her gnome’s 40-year absence, Suzanne’s attitude on the theft has come full circle.

“He is kind of a mystical figure because he’s been hiding for all these years,” she says.

Besides, she adds, “It is a good story and it has a happy ending. That’s the stories I like.”