Gerald Bestrom (1937–2012)
(who played Lincoln in “The Conspirator” film) visits school children while impersonating Abraham Lincoln, telling stories, giving illistrations and sharing history from Lincolns life and values that made him a great president.
The guest speaker, striding out before an audience of about 150 second-graders, has coal-black hair and a beard with no mustache and wears black trousers; a long, black frock coat; a bow tie; and a stovepipe hat.
“This man needs no introduction today,” a second-grade teacher says by way of introduction.
“I know, that’s Abe Lincoln,” a girl says.
To be honest, the visitor is merely a retired auto worker from Michigan named Gerald Bestrom. In the minds of many students, though, he really is Honest Abe, the frontiersman-cumpresident from Kentucky via Indiana and Illinois.
The real Abraham Lincoln held a nation together during tumultuous times, and the Lincoln impersonator does something similarly impressive: he holds the attention of a gaggle of 7- and 8-year-olds for nearly an hour.
Bestrom began exploring his inner Abe in the late 1980s after a churchmate noted his resemblance to Lincoln, even though Bestrom was clean-shaven at the time. Bestrom grew a beard, and in 1990 he retired from an automobile factory in Grand Rapids, Mich., and hit the road to make appearances at schools, churches and retirement centers. Bestrom lodges in a 27-foot motor home with the license plate, “ITS-ABE.”
Bestrom, a native of Michigan, (Hastings) bears an uncanny resemblance to the late president; complete with the thick, dark beard, dark hair and sharply prominent facial features. It’s amazing how much he looks like all the pictures of Lincoln.
Bestrom claims that in 20 years, he has never lost a Lincoln look-alike contest.
Lincoln was a little bit taller than me, Bestrom admitted.
He famously said that he was 6’4″, almost. Im 6’1″, almost. It would be nearly impossible to measure up to President Lincoln, but I am a little better looking–almost.
In addition to the Gettysburg address, Bestroms performans old-timey songs with a musical saw, gives trivia questions and brief history lessons.
Theres a real longing today for the principals and morals that made his a great nation, Bestrom explaines.
Lincoln was not a perfect man, but he endeavored to live up to the light.
He famously said that nothing is politically right that is morally wrong. We need leaders that think like that today.