SYCAMORE, Ill. (AP) - About 300 eighth-grade students sat quietly Wednesday afternoon and leaned in to hear tales of Theodore Roosevelt - former U.S. president, a cattle rancher in Dakota Territory, and father of a defiant, cigarette smoking 17-year-old daughter.
Joe Weigand, a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator and Fairdale native, stood before groups of students Wednesday afternoon in the Sycamore Middle School gymnasium, sharing stories of Roosevelt’s childhood and presidency, something he remembers studying even as a little boy.
“When my two older brothers picked on me all the time, I hid myself in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and that’s not unrelated to why I do what I do,” Weigand said.
Like a Venn diagram, there is Teddy Roosevelt, there is Joe Weigand, and there is an intersection where the two meet, he said. This overlap is where Weigand thrives.
He prides himself in spending his free time studying birds, geography, politics - all areas in which Roosevelt himself was well-versed. He said he’s never been asked a question about Roosevelt that he couldn’t answer, and he doesn’t plan on it anytime soon.
“My Teddy’s always becoming more fully informed about those questions that might arise, if not here at Sycamore Middle School, then maybe on a college campus or at some historical society or some museum,” he said.
Weigand’s commitment to the character didn’t go unnoticed, and might have helped some of the students retain a little history.
“He was interesting - the way how he was able to pinpoint exact times and dates of what he did in the White House,” eighth-grader Ben Hollendoner said.
Weigand’s visits to local schools this week were sponsored by the Sycamore Kiwanis Club, which will host Weigand again from 6:30 to 10 p.m. today at Sycamore High School. Proceeds will benefit the club’s Eliminate Project, a Kiwanis International and UNICEF effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus.
While some students marveled at the chains hanging from Weigand’s vest, or the top hat and glasses he wore, the impersonator’s hope is to have influenced at least one or two students, the way his teachers did.
“We are who we are when we were little. I was always fascinated by history and presidential history and politics and in fourth grade, I had an invasion plan for the Soviet Union to free the peoples from totalitarian government,” he said, “God bless my public school education. I was so fortunate that those people really made an impact upon me, especially Miss Rogers in fourth grade. … I finished my math early. She let me go to the library, where I read presidential biographies and military history. Nothing happens by accident.”
Source: The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle, https://bit.ly/1R3K8px
Information from: The Daily Chronicle, https://www.daily-chronicle.com
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