“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
I don't know what makes great offspring or great parents. What I do know is that I felt like Dad's favorite and so did each of my six siblings. One Christmas, I asked my dad what he really wanted as a gift. He said, "You know I love to dress up like Lincoln and every Presidents Day I like to give my impersonation at the senior center, so if you could get me a human-hair Lincoln beard, that would be great. "
Wow what an amazing request! I was excited to look for a gift that was something other than a tie, sweater or box of chocolates, a gift that would be personal, and I would be a small part of his historic reinactments.
"Cool" I responded.
"Lincoln was one of the first public figures to utter the phrase, 'cool' in a sentence with the same meaning that we give it today." Dad pointed this out almost every time any of us uttered the word. It always made me imagine ol' Abe in bellbottoms, sun glasses and long hippy hair.
Starting in High School and throughout his life my dad posed as Lincoln, either in plays or giving speeches and was happy to accept any invitation from social clubs, history organizations and senior groups for what he saw as an opportunity to share one of the president's great speeches. He really embodied Lincoln in many mysterious ways, but most of all he shared his dignity, humor and compassion.
Growing up, one of my jobs was to help my dad at the Roosevelt Sanctuary. Every summer we did a lot of painting and sprucing up. One of my chores was to paint the crosses that marked the graves of the unknown African American slaves who were buried in front of the graveyard. My dad and I would talk about the fact that their stories were buried with them. They were slaves of some of the rich families in Oyster Bay, which of itself is a sad note in the town's history. Dad worked for a number of years on the project and was able to put some wheels in motion to get those graves consecrated and blessed by a local church group. It was a small but noble action and helped many heal some very deep wounds. Below are links to the newspaper stories. Nick LaBella left some wonderful artifacts from a life very well lived and very well remembered.
Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln.
This is the link to the story about the gravesites http://www.antonnews.com/oysterbayenterprisepilot/2009/01/23/opinion and here is the second link from a year later http://www.antonnews.com/oysterbayenterprisepilot/news/6311-black-history-celebrated-in-oyster-bay.html