February 18, 2013

Cass Historical Society hosts annual dinner

Society celebrates donations and future projects with Theodore Roosevelt speaker

by Mitchell Kirk

— The Cass County Historical Society celebrated Logansport’s 175th anniversary with its annual benefit dinner Saturday night, an event that included society members, distinguished guests and a portrayal of former President Theodore Roosevelt.

President Theodore Roosevelt visited Logansport in 1902, according to published reports. Shortly before his visit, he was involved in a carriage accident that badly injured his leg and killed an FBI agent accompanying him.

Gib Young portrayed Roosevelt at the historical society dinner’s main event through a rousing speech displaying the 26th president’s advocation for wildlife preservation and the right for women to vote, his contentious relationship with Congress, work to create the Panama Canal and time as a Rough Rider in the Spanish–American War.

“I’ve had a much better time tonight than I did in 1902,” Young said in his Roosevelt accent, drawing a laugh from the crowd that filled Desert First Catering & More Saturday night.

After his speech, Young further displayed his knowledge of Roosevelt by taking questions from the audience, remaining in character as he answered.

Deanna Crispen, president of the Cass County Community Foundation, said she was impressed with Young’s presentation.

“For someone to take that person and be able to answer questions with historical facts, it was a very interesting program.”

Young met with attendees at the end of the event. In his frock coat, top hat and spectacles resting on the bridge of his nose, he signed autographs as President Roosevelt using an ink-dipped pen.

Young, a Huntington resident, said he’s been portraying Roosevelt for the last eight or nine years, with credits including Mount Rushmore and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

“I’ve always been a history buff,” Young said. “All my life I was told I look like Theodore Roosevelt, so one day I thought maybe I could do something with it. I love history and I love sharing history.”

Thelma Conrad, executive director of the Cass County Historical Society, said the society currently has around 300 members from 17 states, all who donate to the society on a regular basis. She said the society has one member at the “History Patron” level, who donates around $1,000 a year.

Conrad thanked all of the society’s members and donors at the dinner, including the Cass County Community Foundation for recently securing a $1,000 grant and the Lawrence J. and Ruth Castaldi Family Trust, which recently donated $20,000. She said the society recently received a donation of $25,000 as well from a donor she could not yet name publicly, adding that the money would be used toward digitizing the society’s geneological records and historical documents.

Conrad praised the society’s 24-member board and its volunteers for their history preservation efforts and involvement in the community.

“The historical society worked very hard in 2012,” Conrad said, commending volunteers for their work at stops along the county’s historic bike tour, helping out with the “Historical Hauntings” exhibit at the society’s museum and volunteering at a free will breakfast in TwelveMile and a fish fry in Walton.

Former Logansport Mayor Jone (Wilson) Hickey also attended the event.

“It was very, very nice,” Hickey said. “I had not seen the speaker before, but I could’ve been sure it was Teddy himself!”

Hickey served as mayor from 1980 to 1984. She now resides in Edwardsville, Ill.

“It’s good to see things going well in Logansport,” she said.

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