Rural Missouri - February 2014 - (Page 22)

A by Heather Berry hberry@ruralmissouri.coop t first glance, Mark Rehagen looks like someone you've already met. His face is long, eyes deep-set and framed under dark brows. His frame, lanky. His sideburns are long and lead to only a chin beard. But Mark's resemblance to Abraham Lincoln goes beyond superficial likeness. The larger-than-life persona that made our 16th president one of history's most unforgettable men has made Mark a talented presenter of Lincoln history. Mark, 55, has been an Abraham Lincoln re-enactor for more than a decade. His journey to becoming Lincoln began in 2002 when he was asked to play the president in a Civil War production with the Capital City Players theater group in his hometown of Jefferson City. "When director Rob Crouse approached me with the idea, I said, 'Why me?'" recalls Mark, who is vicepresident of cash management operations for Central Bank. "Crouse said, 'Well, you're really tall, and if you grow a beard, you'll do fine.'" Mark adds, "An amazing thing happens when you grow a beard and cut off the moustache - people start saying you look like Lincoln." Oddly enough, the similarities go beyond Mark's 6-foot-4-inch frame and facial features. Like Lincoln, Mark has four sons. "But I wasn't born in a log cabin," he says. He's a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters and attends the national group's annual meeting each April. "You don't have to look exactly like Lincoln to join," Mark says, adding that the group has short Lincolns and pudgy Lincolns, too. "We even have some Mary Todds who attend with their husbands." Mark says Lincoln always has been one of his favorite presidents, but he wasn't really an enthusiast beyond that. He did dress up as Lincoln one Halloween while in college because he saw a top hat in the costume room while attending Josephinum College in Columbus, Ohio. Following his theatrical Lincoln debut, Mark began making presentations at local schools on Feb. 12, the president's birthday, and speaking at several festivals across the state throughout the year. For the past several years, he's worked with Missouri Secretary of State's office, making 30 appearances each spring to school groups on trips to the state Capitol. While he does receive a small stipend for those appearances, any other appearance is done free of charge. Tracy Wegman, eighth-grade teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in Taos, says Mark's portrayal of Abraham Lincoln is spot on. "He not only looks like Lincoln, but he is a great researcher and is able 22 Mark Rehagen has been what he calls "an Abraham Lincoln presenter" since 2002. Honest Abe One man's hobby takes him back in time to adapt the history to the age level he's speaking to," says Tracy. The teacher says her interest in Mark's presentations are personal, too. "Abraham's mother, Nancy Hanks, had one sister," says Tracy, "And that sister is my great-grandmother." Becoming Lincoln has been a process for the presenter. While he learned about the president in history class, Mark has studied Lincoln's life, experiences and writings even further. He feels he can now embody the things the president was most known for - honesty, character and integrity. When he portrays Lincoln for school groups at the Secretary of State's office, he comes to the future in a time machine, which intrigues the kids. Of course, one of the first WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP things many of the children * want to Jefferson City know is if Mark is really Abraham Lincoln. "I can usually talk around the question at first, but of course, I later tell them I am only a presenter of Lincoln's life," says Mark, who appears before the group wearing a custom-made costume complete with Lincoln's iconic stovepipe hat and long frock coat. While his own hair is gray, Mark brushes in the black color to bring his Lincoln look to life. "The second thing they usually ask is how tall my hat is and can they wear it," adds Mark. "They ask if the beard is real and, since Lincoln was a permissive parent, I usually let the kids give it a gentle tug." While he answers the children's questions during the presentations, Mark talks about the "not so Civil War" and why neighbors were fighting neighbors. He discusses slavery and Missouri's 1,162 battles and skirmishes during the Civil War, the third most of any state. Mark says if he could go back in time and meet Lincoln, he'd ask him more about his childhood because little is known about his early life growing up in Kentucky. He'd also ask the president if he was shocked to win the 1860 presidential election. "There were more well-known people running," says Mark, referring to Lincoln's opponents, slavery supporters Stephen Douglas and John Bell and Vice President John Breckenridge. Mark's wife, Susan, doesn't mind the Lincoln look. While she's never appeared with him, he hopes one day she'll want to become a Mary Todd. "She's also used to people coming up to me and telling me I should dress up as Lincoln," Mark says. When he is dressed as Lincoln, Mark keeps in character, speaking with the verbiage of Lincoln's time. It appears Lincoln truly is there. "I also talk to the kids about Abraham Lincoln being a self-made man, how he came from nothing," says Mark. "He had virtually no education and look what he became, so I always talk about the importance of getting an education. "I want the kids to know they can become anything they want to, just as Lincoln did," he adds. "I'm glad I can do that by bringing history to life." To contact Mark Rehagen, email therailsplitter@embarqmail.com or call 573-636-3120. To learn more about bringing a school group to hear Mark's Lincoln presentation at the Missouri State Archives, contact the Secretary of State's office by emailing emily.luker@sos.mo.gov or calling 573526-5296. Presentations are offered in March, April and May. http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2014

Rural Missouri - February 2014
Contents
Comments
Columns
Ministering to motorists
A mid-winter read
Fighting more than fires
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Metal & music
Honest Abe
Hearth and Home
The Missouri Dinosaur
Around Missouri
Marketplace
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - February 2014

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