Revisiting Thor Stanton Wickstrom

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By Roy Marshall

In last week’s column I pointed out names of some of our area’s early settlers—names like Dimple and Pluma and Philander—names once popular that have fallen into disuse.  
I concluded by mentioning that in 1960 the editor of Stanton’s newspaper demonstrated his love of home-town, pride in Swedish heritage, and unquenchable Viking spirit by naming his newborn son Thor Stanton Wickstrom.  
Interestingly, Mr. Wick-strom sold the newspaper four months later and moved his family to Florida.  
Scandinavian mythology depicts Thor as being the hammer-wielding, barrel-chested son of Odin, associated with thunder, lightning, fertility, destruction, and protecting the human race.  
A name like Thor might have served well in Swedish Stanton, but how did it play in Florida?  
With this in mind, and wondering how his first fifty years have gone, I looked up Thor Stanton Wickstrom.  
He was not hard to find.  Growing up in the town of Zephyrhills in central Florida, Thor learned at an early age he was better equipped to create art than lightning.  
While in high school he drew cartoons for his dad’s newspaper, receiving $10 for each one used.   
Following high school he studied art in Chicago and New York, eventually settling in North Adams, Mass.  
Thor, now a well-established artist, has shown his paintings in Paris and New York.  He has illustrated over 50 picture books and contributes a monthly cartoon and other illustrations to “Ask” and “Click” (the Cricket magazine group).
I’m impressed by his range.  
He depicts in oil everything from still life to caricatures, from nudes to cartoons, from metro scenes to portraits.   
He’s developed a style that, to my untrained eye, casts a medieval specter on modern settings.    
But what of the name?  
Thor laughs.  
“Dad chose the name because he was immensely proud of being Swedish.  But years ago I went to Sweden and there’s no one there named ‘Thor.’ Thorvolds and Thorsons and names like that, but not a ‘Thor’ to be found.”  
Thor said as a student and young artist, he ate his share of take-out pizza.  
When ordering he was asked for a name.  More often than not this prompted a worn-out Viking joke—or two.  
Thor has not only heard them all, he’s heard them over and again.  Listening to the jokes not only grew irritating, the telling delayed his pizza.  Thor began pronouncing his name ‘Tore’.  This didn’t work out, so after two years of ‘Tore’ he went back to ‘Thor’.   “The name’s unusual,” he said, “but it’s mine and I’m fine with it.”  
?Thor related an incident that took place two years ago when his mother and siblings gathered in Montgomery County to attend a funeral.   Driving a rental car, Thor pulled into a Stanton service station.  If he was surprised to have the proprietor wash the windshield he was even more so when, upon revealing his last name, the attendant nodded, said he knew he was Thor Stanton, and that the family had moved away in September of 1960.  Thor was astonished, assuming his editor-father had made such an impact that people on main street half a century later remembered the year and month he’d departed.  “Actually,” the man buffing the windshield replied, “credit your mother.  She was in here half an hour ago and told me all about it.”  
Thor Stanton Wickstrom sends his regards to all, including a gentleman his father admired as his counterpart at the Express—Jim Logan.   
Roy Marshall is a local historian and columnist for the Red Oak Express. He can be reached at news@redoakexpress.com.