And the Quest Begins...A Little Early

Trip Start Apr 05, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Friday, April 5, 2013

I had actually planned on starting this quest next week.  However, an unfortunate incident caused me to start it today.  I have three sisters and one brother.  My oldest sister, Donna lives in Springfield along with her husband, Steve.  Unfortunately, Steve's father, Frank Matheis died earlier this week, and the visitation and funeral were held today.  Frank was 92, so he "played the whole game" as I like to say.  He was a career State of Illinois employee in the Department of Transportation.  Typical of many residents of Springfield, IL.  His life was a good one except for the past year when he was in the throes of that terrible Alzheimer's disease.  He was a quiet generous man who loved his family and bestowed upon them great gifts over the years.  And one of his best qualities...he was a Cubs fan!!!  He finally was taken by a heart attack earlier this week. Unfortunately, his wife of 67 years, Mary is also suffering from the dreaded disease.  

So, it was a sad occasion that brought me to Springfield today.  However, it was tempered with joy in many ways by seeing my Mom, two of my sisters and many nieces, nephews and their families. Interestingly, many of them will be at our house on Sunday when Sandy will host a bridal shower for the fiance of Donna's youngest son, David.  Her name is Sarah Leonard. Sarah and David will be married in June. They make a great couple!  And the circle of life continues.  

I left for Springfield a little after 8:00 am, making the route I have taken so many times to Springfield in little over an hour.  It promised to be a pretty day in the low 50s.  I got the Catholic Church (Holy Cathedral).  It's the church where Donna and at least one of her daughters (maybe two) were married.  As I was standing outside checking email, Aunt Mary and Mom drove up and I waited for them to come inside. Before they made it to me, Donna's youngest daughter, Christine and her husband David came in and we greeted each other with great hugs.  

Mom, my sister (Aunt Mary) and I greeted the Matheis family again with great hugs.  After paying my respects to Steve, I saw the many pictures of Frank and his family which someone had put together so carefully and lovingly.  

I didn't stay for the actual funeral, opting to walk Mom and Aunt Mary out to their car and then I was off on my quest.

I didn't have to ask directions to Lincoln's tomb.  I had been there many times, having gone to High School in Springfield.  It was a regular stop on the "Lincoln Historic Sites" tour we always gave to visitors and relatives to Springfield.  The regular sites included:  Lincoln's Home (a place where Sandy and both worked when we first started dating), Lincoln's Tomb, The Old State Capitol, The Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, The Depot where Lincoln gave his farewell address to the people of Springfield, and if there was time, Lincoln's New Salem State Park.  In the past few years, obviously the new Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum would be added to our tour.  

Turning north on Monument Drive off of North Grand Avenue will take the visitor to the gates of Oak Ridge Cemetery where Lincoln is buried.  The tomb is monolithic structure which includes an obelisk on top.  On the four corners are sculptures depicting the four Civil War services - Infantry, Artillery, Cavalry and Navy.  Out front is a large bust of Lincoln which is a reproduction of the actual bust done by Gutzon Borglum (of Mount Rushmore fame) which is in the Capitol in Washington DC.  It's said that rubbing Lincoln's nose will bring good luck.  If nothing else, it makes his nose shiny!  (See picture)  

The tomb was dedicated in 1874 and is the final resting place of our 16th President along with his wife, Mary, and three of their four sons, Edward, William (Willie) and Thomas (Tad).  Only Robert Todd Lincoln is buried elsewhere?  Anyone know where?  Yes, a place we visited only recently, Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC.  

A walk through the tomb is, as it should be, a solemn experience.  The low lit marble and bronze give it a quiet, peaceful ambiance.  You can almost feel the quiet reverence demanded by the walk down the halls which are filled with excerpts of Lincoln's speeches and statues of the man as you make your way to the burial chamber.  Fortunately pictures are not prohibited. In the middle is what appears to be a sarcophagus holding Lincoln's body.  But it is really a cenotaph or an empty tomb.  Lincoln's body is actually buried 10 feet below in the solid concrete of a burial chamber.  

A worker was there giving school children a lesson.  He was well-versed in his Lincoln history.  I made my way out of the tomb as another group of school children made their way into the tomb. And the education continues.  

Lincoln's body did not always rest in this tomb.  In fact, his first burial site is called the "receiving vault" and is located down a hill and just north of the present day tomb. (See pictures.)  It wan't until 1871 that Lincoln's body was moved to the tomb.   

The employee mentioned an attempt to steal Lincoln's body.  I knew the story and knew that was partially why they eventually buried him under 10 feet of concrete.  The attempt to steal Lincoln's body occurred in 1876 by a group of counterfeiters from Chicago.  They were thwarted in their attempt by an informant.  

I have a piece of Lincoln Tomb history.  On August 8, 1956, at approximately 8:15 pm, the tomb was struck by lightening.  Damage was confined to the northeast corner.  Fragments of stone were broken from the granite blocks which made it necessary to replace several of them.  The broken fragments were retained and delivered to State Representative Ben S. Rhodes of Normal, Illinois.  I have a pill vial with several fragments of the damaged blocks of Massachusetts granite.  I have a certified letter from the Director of the Lincoln Tomb Memorial authenticating the pieces of granite.  A gentleman from State Farm who worked at the Services Facility gave them to me several years ago.  I have treasured them ever since.  My own little piece of Abraham Lincoln history.   

As I did on my Ballpark Quest, I am also trying to find interesting places to eat in each of these cities.  I could have chosen from many Springfield specialties.  The first "Cozy Dogs" or some call them Corn Dogs were made here in Springfield.  Springfield also boasts the first "Horseshoe" sandwiches.  But I chose a lunch adventure...a submarine sandwich.  I've only tried Monty's Submarine Sandwiches once, but it only took once to fall in love with them.  The El Italiano to be more specific.  They compete annually with Head West for the best subs in Springfield.  I've had both and in my humble opinion, Monty's wins.  There are two locations in Springfield.  I chose the one off Sangamon Avenue.  If you go there during tax season, you can't miss it...there's one of those Statue of Liberty "Liberty Tax" guys out front waving you into the strip mall where both Liberty Tax and Monty's is located.  

I got there and one guy was doing everything.  He was in the middle of making 5 large sandwiches (don't think Subway footlong, think round and as big as a bar stool seat).  But he was working his hands off and there were six of us in line waiting for him to finish.  None of us was in much of a hurry.  

I did take a picture of the picture they have of Lincoln's Tomb in their establishment.  I thought of it as a good omen.  

Finally the six of us got waited on.  The guy behind the counter (TJ) was a bit irreverent and I personally liked it.  Some may take offense to him saying to the next customer in line, "How can I be of disservice to you today?" Or sometimes, "How can I mess up your order today?"  I thought it was just another great part of the ambiance.  

I ordered the El Italiano.  I wanted sweet bread, but it was still baking, so I settled for wheat. Not talking La Gondola or Avanti's sweet...just a hint of sweetness.  The wheat was outstanding as well.  Refills on soft drinks are a quarter, but TJ said, "Forget the quarter.  It's mainly so I don't have as much garbage to throw out each day."  Now that's odd, but again added to the character of the place.  

 Twenty minutes later, I was on my way back to Bloomington.  It was in one way, a sad day, but on the other a good start to my quest to visit all of the Presidential gravesites.  Glad to have you along!

Take care my friends and relatives!                  

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Curtis Simpson on

Hey there partner, I was there the day after your visit! I ran the Lincoln Half Marathon on Saturday, the 6th. We ran by Lincoln's tomb, coming up the hill from the west. They had us fork right at the tomb, taking us about 100 yards from Lincoln's bust/nose. I was so tempted to fork left and stop to rub his nose. However I had a good time going on the race, so I passed. Bummed I didn't get to rub the nose. :) Great start to your adventure, Lincoln has always been my favorite president!

dblegldave on

How'd you do partner? Record time? I'm sure you did well. We need to get playing some golf!!! See you man!

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