The saga of the styrofoam statue #lookingforlincolninil

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[November 20, 2020]    Over the last week or so, many folks may have noticed a slightly bruised and battered Abraham Lincoln bust floating around town in Lincoln. The bust is being planted at various locations, raising the spirits of many in the community, and creating a fun little hide and go seek game for the community on facebook.

Last week when Lincoln Daily News’s Karen Hargis snagged a picture of the Lincoln bust in the entryway of ME Realty and it sparked a memory. The bust looked familiar, like an old friend that had returned home after a long battle or something.

Yes, the statue was beaten up a bit, but there were enough prominent features to know it was Lincoln, and to also know that the statue has been seen before in our community.

Long ago a story was published in Lincoln Daily News about a dumpster dive rescue made by then Logan County Board member Kevin Bateman. This LDN reporter went in a search through its archives to find the connection between that story and the one unfolding.

In June of 2012, Kevin Bateman shared at a county board meeting that he had rescued an Abraham Lincoln statue from the trash at a business in Springfield. The statue he said was made of Styrofoam and was a replica of the larger-than-life seated Lincoln that is in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Bateman brought the statue home to Lincoln, but how did it get from point A – Kevin Bateman to point B - #lookingforlincolninil?

This week Bateman provided a part of the answer. Bateman works at a vehicle dealership in Springfield close to the Meyer store on that city’s far south side. He often walks to lunch, passing the back of that building. One day in June as he walked to lunch, he spied the statue sitting behind the Meyer store.

It was obvious to him that the nearly seven foot tall hunk of Styrofoam was destined for the garbage truck. Bateman called the Meyer store to find out the rest of the story. The manager told him that the statue was going in the trash. It had to be busted up into pieces first so it was just sitting behind the building waiting for someone to take on that task.

Bateman asked what it would take to acquire the statue and was told that if he would haul it away, he could have it.

Bateman said that he loaded the statue into the back of a dealership box truck and brought it to his home in Lincoln.

He had the statue at his house for about a week. During that time, he contacted Geoff Ladd, then director of the Logan County Tourism Bureau and offered to gift it to the bureau. A week later, John Sutton, a Lincoln resident and participant in the annual Railsplitter Festival in Lincoln showed up to the collect the statue.

Sutton told Bateman that the statue would be featured in some local parades and would also be featured at the annual Railsplitter Festival later that fall.

Bateman said that was the last time he saw the statue. He had seen the photos of the traveling Abe in recent days, but had not made the connection that the two were one in the same.

The statue did indeed appear at a few events in 2012. In June the community of Middletown held its first homecoming. Abe made his debut at that parade riding on a float representing the Railsplitter Festival.

In September, the statue was prominently displayed at the Railsplitter Festival held at the Logan County Fairground.

The statue appeared again in December, riding on a float in the annual Lincoln Christmas Parade decked out with a Santa hat and winter scarf.

After that, the styrofoam Lincoln statue seemed to melt away. He wasn’t seen much and frankly was almost forgotten until early in 2020.

In 2019, Jack Merreighn spied the statue in the garage of his cousins Daryl and Nancy Vannoy. The Vannoy’s are also involved with the Railsplitter Festival and had been storing the statue. Merreighn said the statue was in a few pieces but was definitely salvageable. This was ‘pre-COVID” and Merreighn thought it would be neat to bring the statue back out for the 50th anniversary Railsplitter Festival. It needed some work and it needed cleaned up. Merreighn said he would take on that task and get Lincoln all spiffy for the festival.

Merreighn loaded the Lincoln into the back of his truck. But then tragedy struck, Merreighn said, as he was headed home on Nicholson Road, he met a large grain truck. As the truck blew past him, Abe blew out of the back of Merreighn’s truck.

That ‘flying Abe’ adventure was too much for the statue to withstand. It landed on the pavement in pieces. Merreighn was heart sick. He picked up the pieces as best he could and drove home with broken Abe in the back of his truck.

Nearly a year later, Merreighn still had the pieces and decided it was time get rid of it. Merreighn set the bust in the alley behind his house, thinking someone might pick it up and deconstruct it so as to use the Styrofoam for other craft projects.

Then along came Elizabeth (Cabit) Miller, with a different idea. Merreighn knew Miller having been involved in a few fundraisers and community activities. Miller along with her siblings James, Shannon and Dace Long, wanted to bring some fun to the community and keep the Lincoln bust alive for a while longer.

She, her brother and sister, Dace, and Jack worked together to create the concept of lookingforlincolninil on social media, and “dropping Abe off” in various locations.

Elizabeth said that she wanted to do something to bring fun and unity back to the community. “It was my idea to make him travel. It seemed like the community needed lifted up.”

Elizabeth made up the facebook page, and her brother and Dace Long started moving the Lincoln bust from location to location in March of this year. Then came COVID.

Talking about Abes’s tour and what happened Elizabeth explained, “The first time was right before COVID hit like a week before. We were always on the hunt for Honest Abe. When we were quarantined, we all thought it would be better for him and the community to not touch him due to the guidelines we were to follow.”

During that early “tour” in late March, Abe made stops at a number of locations.

The Lincoln Park District

Logan Lanes

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Northwest School

The Mill on Route 66 Museum

When Abe was benched again for COVID, he went back to Merreighn’s house to quarantine. While he was there, Merreighn’s granddaughter Zailey decided to make Abe the subject of her artistic talents.

She gave him a hippy make-over complete with tie-dye colors and groovy glasses and renamed him the “Virus Killer.”

Everyone enjoyed the makeover, but Merreighn decided that the community was not ready for a psychedelic Lincoln. The bust was eventually cleaned up and repainted white.

Last week, Miller and Merreighn decided it was time for the statue to make a comeback. Times are still tough in the community and the statue puts a smile on people’s faces. It is kind of fun to check the facebook page every day and see where Abe spent the night.

So far he has been at a number of familiar locations in town, starting with the office of ME Realty.

Abe with Seth Goodman at ME Realty

Seth did a walk past at the Logan County Courthouse and then…

Planted Abe in the entryway at Small Town Creations

Next Abe visited Family Video on Keokuk Street

Wes Bender, Eddie Ginger and Dwayne Alley were excited when Abe arrived at D-Fade’s Barber Shop in downtown Lincoln.

 Alley posted, “Abe came in for a trim this morning. I think its obvious the real Abe would have gone to D-Fade's Barber Shop for his haircut. He was a smart man.”

On November 17th at some time in the night, Abe crept up the steps at the Lincoln Public Library and spent the rest of the night waiting for the library to open on Wednesday morning.

So, where will Abe go next? It is anyone’s guess.

In the end this is a story of turning lemons into lemonade. While Abe was grand in his original state and made a handsome display, the bruised and battered Abe is making a difference in the community. Merreighn, Miller, her Cabit siblings, and Long are having a great time helping Abe get around town again. Those who find him on their steps get a smile on their face knowing they were chosen to be a part of this fun little hide and seek game.

So, if you see Abe out and about, enjoy his presence, don’t hurt him as he’s been through enough already, and if you wish, post a comment on the facebook page and even a selfie if you wish.

For those who find Abe and move him to a new location, the only rule is that you be respectful of other people’s property.

Thanks to Merreighn and Miller for cooking up this little adventure. It is fun to observe, and was definitely fun to be able to share “the rest of the story” with our readers.

[Nila Smith]


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