President’s Day February 21 and Family Ties to the White House

Many people I meet in Europe look clueless when I tell them I am from Illinois, but their faces light up when I add,  “from the Land of Lincoln.”  They may be unable to locate my home state on a map, but they have heard of Abraham Lincoln.

February is a fitting time for Presidents’ Day, which commemorates their birthdays on the third Monday of the month, in honor of our first President’s birthday, George Washington.

Abraham Lincoln’s was born February 12th.  If Ronald Reagan had lived, he would have turned one hundred on Feb. 6th.

My grandfather, who passed away at age 96, almost made it to the century mark. Even in old age, he never forgot his own birthday.  Hard for a guy to forget, when a President of the United States called up every year to remind you.

Coach Mac & President Reagan in the Oval Office - courtesy White House photography

Now what kind of a man – who knew the glamour of Hollywood and the glory of the White House – would remain kind enough to call his old college coach every year to extend well wishes?  Reagan played right guard for my grandpa, Coach Mac, at Eureka College from 1928-1932.  Though grandpa remembered Reagan for being a better orator than athlete, the relationship forged on a football field at the small private, Christian school in central Illinois lasted a lifetime. “Dutch” Reagan and Coach Mac remained together for every crucial moment of each other’s career.

Reagan delivered my grandfather’s retirement testimonial speech at Northern Illinois University and presented his award at the Washington D.C.Touchdown Club.  Coach Mac attended Reagan’s Presidential Inauguration and dined at the White House.  When my grandpa under went hip surgery, Reagan’s White House doctors’ consulted with my grandpa’s surgeon.

Whether one agreed with Reagan’s conservative policy or not, history will remember our 40th President (1981-1989) as a gifted communicator whose vision led to sustained economic growth, an end to the Cold War, and a restoration of the nation’s confidence.

When I look back, I will remember the man from humble beginnings, who grew up a stone’s throw from my hometown, who found it fitting to honor my grandpa, also of modest origins, with a phone call every year.

Put party loyalties and politics aside. And though indebted Illinois has it’s share of problems, I take pride knowing my home state helped shape a few good leaders, from Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, to Ronald Reagan in Eureka, to President Barack Obama in Chicago.

Illinois is a good place to grow up; February is a good month for birthdays.

Posted in inspiration.


  1. Sista,

    good points! YES, Illinois was a perfect place to grow up in the midst of cornfields where lifelong values of family support, neighborhood WATCH, school involvement and trust in God was instilled. Grandpa sure had a list of lifetime achievements….makes me proud!
    Hey, look who else was born in February…right along with the best of’em! Happy Birthday Sister!!!!

  2. What a great tribute to your grandpa. Thanks for sharing. I’ll forward it to Dennis.

    Did you know I had a crisis weekend of Feb 4-6 when my blood cancer flared up and I nearly died. I’ll copy the bio I just sent to Stanford to be printed in our 55th Reunion book to be published October.

    Keep the blog coming. I love it … and you~!!!

  3. I love your reminders of gracious living that is not seen quite often enough these days. Gracious living does not mean fancy dinners and dainty manners. I believe it
    means taking the time to be grateful. Do we remember to thank and/or honor those who have had an impact on our lives? Your grandpa had a positive influence on Ronald Reagan, and President Reagan, chose to honor him. I also believe that those yearly calls to your grandpa blessed Reagan,too. For a few moments in his day filled with rigorous demands, Reagan could escape to a simpler time while chatting with his mentor and cherished friend, without pressure of agenda or lofty expectations.
    Your grandpa ‘s friendship became more valuable as the years went by.

  4. Since we grew up with stories about Grandpa and Reagan’s friendship, it just seemed like an ordinary occurrence. But in adulthood, I more fully comprehended that their life long relationship was really extraordinary, and the influence that Grandpa had on an athete who later became a U.S. President was something truly special. How blessed we have all been by Grandpa Mac’s legacy.

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