On April 20, 2017, the town of Lexington, Kentucky, was abuzz with sightings of several Abraham Lincolns and Mary Todd Lincolns. The Lincoln Presenters Board of Directors authenticated the sightings, but assured the public that the Lincolns sighted were in fact Lincoln personas (approximately 70 in attendance) who had gathered from across the United States and Canada for their twenty-third national conference. Lexington was the perfect location for such an event, since it was the hometown of Mary Todd Lincoln.
Their agenda was quite ambitious. On Thursday, April 20, 2017, Warren Greer talked on the topic of the Lincoln Heritage Alliance. Afterwards Roger Billings spoke on the Law practice of Lincoln. Terry Pyle addressed ‘Why they wore what they wore.’
Friday the presenters toured Frankfort, starting at the Ford dealership for photos. Alison Lundergan Grimes, Secretary of State, greeted and welcomed the touring Lincolns to the State Capitol. In the afternoon, they had lunch at the Old Governor’s Mansion, then toured the Kentucky History Center, and the ‘Ol Capitol’ where Stuart Sanders presented on the topic of Emily Todd Helm, Lincoln’s Confederate Little Sister. That evening Kent Masterson Brown spoke and showed his video “The Lincoln’s in Kentucky.” At the award ceremony, Tom and Sue Wright were presented the Excellence Award for Distinguished Service for 2016.
The sun didn’t shine bright in Kentucky on Saturday, but it did not detour the presenters. They were up early and traveled to Camp Nelson wearing traditional black and widow’s weeds (mourning dresses). A memorial service was held with a twenty-one-gun salute. Stephen McBride, the historical Interpreter at Camp Nelson was the guest speaker for the Presidents while Cathy Taylor talked to the First Ladies about mourning customs.
At 1 o’clock, the group attended a moving memorial service honoring those presenters who have gone before. The memorial was held in the beautiful Lexington Cemetery, at the gravesite of Cliff Howard, who was a charter member of the organization. He also portrayed President Jefferson Davis and offered a ‘balance’ in recognizing two Kentuckians contribution to American history during the time when America was torn asunder.
Jim Sayre opened the memorial service with words of welcome, followed by Amazing Grace, led by Stan Wernz. Larry Elliott read a scripture followed by David Chaltas, in the persona of General Lee, who performed the stirring, ‘We Drank from the Same Canteen, and described Christ’s passion while on the cross, when he cried out, ‘I Thirst’. He shared the story of Marye’s Heights (The SGT Richard Kirkland saga) and the Living Waters, which is offered to all. Sharon Wood and Jim Sayre read the names of the fifty deceased members. Madeline Howard rang the bell as each name was read and Alex Howard placed a wreath at their grandfather’s grave. Jack Pattie, Federal Bugler, played taps and General Lee offered the benediction.
The day continued with Dr. Ron Bryan offering a very interesting tour of the beautiful cemetery. The group went to see the Robert Todd family graves, which are in the section behind Henry Clay’s grave. After the cemetery excursion, the tour bus drove the group to Mary Todd’s home. That evening dinner was served with a special ‘Punch and Judy Puppet Show’ presentation. It was the Lincoln’s favorite puppet show. Don and Sylvia Coffey provided a wondrous sing-a-long, featuring tunes from the era. The group brushed up on the protocol for Ruffles & Flourishes, Hail to the Chief, Star Spangled Banner, Pledge to the Flag, My Old Kentucky Home, and of course, Dixie. President Lincoln liked Dixie and asked the band to play it several times while in office.
On Sunday, the personas toured Ashland, the home of Henry Clay. They attended Sunday service at the Care Taker’s House, then bid adieu to one another. As they left Lexington, echoes of the past could be heard by the ringing of the bell, as each name of those who have gone before was remembered. Special thanks to Jim Sayre, Joan Howard, Larry Elliot and Susan Miller for their dedication in making this conference so special.
THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE
Joseph Ames, Meredith Ayres, Dan Bassuk, Gerald Bestrom, James Boatright, Ralph Borror, Charlie Brame, Joyce Browning, Chris Christman, Karen Dorrell, Kay DuPont, Lambert Ekster, Charry Fines, Edwin Francisco, Charles Franzen, James Getty, Larry Givens, Bud Green, George Gulick, Harry Hahn, Bruce Hanks, Mary Hanks, Byron Heusdens, Bill Hey, Jim Hitchcock, G. William Horsley, Cliff Howard, Herb Johnson, Jerry Larson, Charlie Long, Karen Lynn, Lloyd Ostendorf, William Peck, Frank Pettice, Macon Ray, Pere Raymond, Robert Rotgers, Jim Rubin, John Sallak, Glenn Schnizleinn, Marti Smith, Richard Soup, Jim Starling, Bill Sublett, Gordon Vincent, Phillip Wagner, H.M. Wammack, Judy Winkelmann, Harlington Wood Jr., Wayne Watson.
-By David Chaltas and Joan Howard