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Friday, October 12, 2012

Column: Shorelines

Have a bite with Mamie and Ike

Not many Americans have had the chance to dine with a president and his wife. Not many would turn down the opportunity to do so, regardless of political beliefs. We are talking about the presidential couple after all.

The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford is giving anyone who wants it the chance to dine with a "past president and his wife." On Sunday, the memorial is hosting a birthday bash for the late Dwight D. Eisenhower.

"We have these impersonators flying up from Florida," said April Cheek-Messier, vice president for Operations and Education at the National D-Day Memorial. "They portray Ike and Mamie. It's neat. We're doing everything themed around Ike and Mamie, what they liked and their favorite things. Ike loved to cook so we're having his favorite recipes. We're doing soups and chili - things they would have cooked."

Eisenhower was born Oct. 14, 1890. He reached the rank of five-star general and served as the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II before becoming the 34th president of the United States in 1953, a position he held until 1961.

"We thought it is a unique way of raising awareness to who he was, and about his life - not only his role as the leader of Operation Overlord, but also his life as president and with his wife," said Cheek-Messier.

"General Eisenhower was an amazing general in that he was very personable," added Cheek-Messier. "I think it is important for people to see him as a real person who was under tremendous pressure during WWII, leading Operation Overlord, being responsible for all the lives of the soldiers, sailors and airmen. Truly, the fate of the invasion rested on his shoulders. I think it is important for us to recognize that."

On Sunday, William and Sue Wills will assume the personas of the Eisenhowers. The Wills will present "Presidents and Their First Ladies, Dramatically Speaking," which is the brainchild of the veteran husband-and-wife acting and writing team.

The couple is in their 16th year of bringing to life the stories of 32 different presidential couples. The Wills have appeared together on stage more than 8,000 times.

They live in Florida and do not do much traveling, but Cheek-Messier said they were intrigued by the invitation from the National D-Day Memorial and jumped at the chance to see it for the first time.

The luncheon is a fundraiser for the memorial. The money raised will help the memorial continue its educational-outreach programs. Lunch is at 1:30 p.m. followed by the performance at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for the lunch and performance are $35 per person or $60 per couple. The price includes lunch, the performance and a souvenir booklet, which has facts about Eisenhower, as well as some of his favorite recipes. There is also music and a silent auction.

Tickets for the performance only are $15 per person. They can be purchased at the Bedford Welcome Center or by calling 586-3329. Will-call service also is available.

Seating for both the lunch and performance is limited, so Cheek-Messier suggested calling right away for a chance to get an intimate look at the life of a president and his wife.

The National D-Day Memorial,3 Overlord Circle, Bedford.586-3329, www.dday.org/