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In the ancient times of my grade-school youth, February was a month for celebrations. Like today, we exchanged cheap little Valentines, one for each of 45 to 50 kids, for that was the size of a baby-boomer classroom. We overdosed equally on teeth-cracking candy hearts with cutesy sayings and milk chocolate kisses.
But best of all, following intensive reading, reports and work sheets focused on two great presidents, February offered not one, but two days off from school to honor their birthdays: Abraham Lincoln's on the 12th and George Washington's on the 22nd.
Of course, for many decades now the two birthdays have been rolled into one, rerouted to the third Monday and designated as a day to honor all presidents. Lost in the merger, however, was the chance to focus attention on two exceptional American leaders.
This year, thanks to the Aurora Historical Society, young students and the entire community will have the opportunity to take an in-depth look at Abraham Lincoln. There will be several special events surrounding an exhibition from the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities with local top sponsorship from the Atrium at Anna Maria.
"LINCOLN: The Constitution & The Civil War" will open at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23 with a gala party and theatrical re-enactors telling the stories of the Civil War, Reconstruction and its aftermath.
John W. King will portray the 16th president, with Marian King as first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Donald Miller will take the stage as Ulysses S. Grant and Ed Haney will share the history of Ohio's own James A. Garfield with Debbie Weinkamer as first lady Lucretia Garfield on the Aurora Community Theatre stage.
Gourmet refreshments will follow in the gallery, along with the first viewing of the exhibit in the museum. Thanks to the sponsorship of Christley, Herrington and Pierce attorneys, tickets for the opening night gala are $25 each and are available through www.aurorahistorical.org or by calling 330-995-3336.
Historical society president John Kudley Jr. not only recruited a number of sponsors for the exhibit, but he also worked closely with Aurora's history teachers to develop opportunities for students at several grade levels to learn more about Lincoln and his times. Marcelle Wilson will coordinate exhibit student tours and classroom projects.
All of the ACT Board members have worked hard to promote the exhibit and Jeff Clark did an exceptional job designing both the invitation and commemorative book. The exhibit will continue through April 5 with two free panel discussions in March, one on Lincoln and civil rights, sponsored by Tomasko Garner, Inc. attorney-at-law, and a second on medical advancements in the Civil War, sponsored by Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna. More details on these events next month.
The Tennessee Williams Pulitzer-Prize winning drama "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 16 at Aurora Community Theatre. This season, ACT began sending instant surveys to patrons online immediately following each production.
For this show, audience reviews have been strong including the following: "This show was absolutely superb!!!! The acting phenomenal!!! By far one of the best performances I have ever seen. Every actor was above great! I'm telling everyone."
Next month, ACT's special benefit show, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" opens March 1 for four performances only through March 9. The madcap comedy features all 37 of the bard's plays plus the sonnets in 97 minutes played by three actors in an endless array of hats, props, costumes and tights. Tickets for both shows are available at www.auroracommunitytheatre.com or 330-562-1818.
Donna French, fabulous spouse, mother, friend, and the greatest storyteller, reader, promoter, devotee and lover of children's literature ever, died Jan. 21. Family and friends honored her at a spectacular celebration Jan. 26 held, fittingly enough, in the lower level of the Aurora Memorial Library.
Donna's family lovingly displayed what they called just a small fraction of their mom's children's literature collection. The array of books and complimentary collectibles covered nearly a dozen tables, floors and corners across half the Gallery with vignettes featuring Donna's favorite books with the puppets, plush, china figurines, doll houses and toys she used to help youngsters fall in love with reading.
Families of tiny porcelain rabbits, ducks, frogs, squirrels, mice and more surrounded the Beatrix Potter group. Softly stuffed renditions of Curious George, Paddington Bear and all the Wild Things paid homage to Donna next to the section designed to carry young readers off to distant lands, exotic cultures and all the exciting places where only imaginative readers can travel. It was a grand send-off to a grand, good, Mother Goose of a lady. May she live happily in the ever after.
We welcome your Aurora news. Contact Christine Patronik-Holder at
440-708-1755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donna French, seated left, with her children and grandchildren after being named 2008 Friends of Aurora Memorial Library Volunteer of the Year. Her family includes grandson Ben Spilsbury, seated right, with standing, from left, granddaughter April Bleakney, daughters Annie French and Suzanne Spilsbury and grandson Luke Clavey
Ms. Patronik-Holder - Thank you for your wonderful tribute to Mom. You have captured part of her magic and found a way to pass it on! With appreciation, Suzanne Spilsbury