Bead-Collecting Flight Attendant Leaves Dazzling Inheritance

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A Pan Am stewardess’ penchant for bringing home tiny souvenirs has made her heirs a bundle.

Naomi Lindstrom began flying for the now defunct Pan American World Airways in 1952. She travelled the globe for 40 years, spanning the golden age of air travel of the 60s and 70s.

During layovers – while her colleagues rested by the pool – Lindstrom immersed herself in the local culture. That led to a lifelong hobby: Collecting tiny beads from the hundreds of places she visited.

“She liked the fact that beads put you in touch with the culture that you admire or are interested in,” recalled Lindstrom’s friend Jamey Allen. “They are mankind’s oldest portable art form.”

Some of the trinkets Lindstrom collected date from the third millennium B.C., which she got from archaeological sites she toured, said her sister Carol Mousel.

“At that particular time, the archeologists weren’t interested in beads, and for $10 she could get a lot of them,” explained Mousel, who inherited Lindstrom’s collection when she died in 2014 at age 90.

Lindstrom’s incredible collection is the subject of a new episode of Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby. It premieres on the FOX Business Network Monday, January 23 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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Lise Mousel, Lindstrom’s niece [if that’s correct?],  said she and her mother were stunned by the sheer number of beads they unearthed when they cleaned out her apartment after her death.

“There was drawer upon drawer when you opened them. Every one was just overflowing,” she said. “It was overwhelming because I didn’t have a clue what I was looking at.”

She’d ultimately learned that her aunt’s collection ran the gamut from Chinese glass to South American jasper and  Burmese amber to dog’s teeth from who-knows-where.

But the biggest surprise for Lindstrom’s heirs came when they auctioned off most of the collection – believed to be one of the finest in America – in March 2016. With thousands of beads divided into nearly 300 lots, the auction took more than five hours.

It generated more than $300,000 in sales.

“Naomi would be standing there with her chest out, her head back and a big smile on her face saying, ‘Yes, I did this,’” said Lise Mousel. “She’d be so proud. She’d be thrilled.”