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Lincoln Buff Plans 500-Mile Trek on Foot

The following is a news release received from Bob Willard on September 1, 2005:

A former government executive from Maryland has announced his plans to travel from Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky to the former president’s final resting place in Illinois.

Bob Willard, whose interest in Lincoln spans nearly 50 years, said he’ll be traveling “the way young Lincoln did it – on foot.”

He estimates the trip will take up to a month and cover nearly 500 miles. Along the way, he will visit many sites associated with Lincoln’s life. He also hopes to speak at schools, libraries and civic organizations about his lifelong hobby of collecting Lincoln memorabilia.

His trip will raise money for the Abraham Lincoln Institute, Inc., an educational organization established in 1997 and run by volunteers, including Willard.

“I’m doing this,” he said, “to get to know Abe Lincoln in a much more personal way. It also gives me a chance to raise money for an outstanding Lincoln organization.”

Willard was inspired by several major upcoming developments celebrating Lincoln: a number of new books, a major Hollywood film, new tourist sites, the 150th anniversaries of the Lincoln- Douglas debates and the Civil War, and, most notably, the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in February 2009.

He will begin his journey September 10 at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He will then follow roughly the same path the 7-year-old Lincoln did when the family left Kentucky for Indiana in 1816.

In Indiana, Willard will visit the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and nearby sites associated with Lincoln’s growth to manhood. He will cross the Wabash River on the Lincoln Bridge near Vincennes, close to where the 21-year-old Lincoln and his family ferried across on their way to Illinois.

In Illinois, Willard will walk to Decatur, where the family first settled, with stops along the way associated with Lincoln’s early career, and then head to Lincoln’s New Salem. He will conclude his trek in Springfield, where one finds the only home Lincoln owned, his restored law office, the capitol building in which he served as a state legislator, and his final resting place. Springfield is also home to the newly opened Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Immediately prior to his journey, Willard will speak at the Cincinnati Public Library in conjunction with the “Forever Free” traveling exhibit presented by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His talk on Lincoln Collecting will take place Wednesday, September 7 at 7 p.m. in the main library.

“Putting pennies on the path” is a way people can pledge so much per mile upon the completion of Willard’s walk. Ten Lincoln cents a mile, for example, will raise approximately $50 for the Abraham Lincoln Institute, a donation that is fully tax-deductible. Information on pledging is on the Support page of the website .

Willard’s interest in the 16th U.S. President began when he was a seventh-grader in central New Jersey in 1957, two years before the nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. For nearly half a century he has collected books, magazines, news clippings, artwork and many other items featuring Abraham Lincoln, including a larger than life plaster statue that holds a place of honor in his living room.

Willard is a member of several groups celebrating Lincoln’s legacy. He is president of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, treasurer of the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia, and board member of the Abraham Lincoln Association.

A graduate of Georgetown University and George Washington University, Willard was an engineer officer in the U.S. Army with service in Korea and Vietnam. His career has included assignments in government, private industry and the nonprofit sector, with a heavy concentration on information technology and publishing.

He and his wife, Carolyn, celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary in May. They have three children and two grandchildren, and reside in University Park, Md.

Willard, who turns 61 on September 9, has been busy with physical conditioning in preparation for his journey. He had heart bypass surgery three years ago, but “My doctor thinks the walk’s a fine idea,” he said. While he is taking this time to focus on his Lincoln interests, he says he is “not quite ready to retire yet.”

He plans to maintain a website on his Lincoln Trek (www.bobwillard.com/lincolntrek) and will carry his cell phone with him to discuss his travels with interested supporters. The number? 202-LINCOLN.

Day-by-Day Itinerary

DAY 1 Sat., Sept. 10 -- Lincoln Birthplace to Knob Creek to Hodgenville, KY
DAY 2 Sun., Sept. 11 -- Hodgenville to Elizabethtown, KY
DAY 3 Mon., Sept. 12 -- Elizabethtown to Radcliff, KY
DAY 4 Tues., Sept. 13 -- Radcliff to Irvington, KY
DAY 5 Wed., Sept. 14 -- Irvington to Hardinsburg, KY
DAY 6 Thurs., Sept. 15 -- Hardinsburg to Cannelton, IN
DAY 7 Fri., Sept. 16 -- Cannelton to Rockport, IN
DAY 8 Sat., Sept. 17 -- Rockport to Lincoln State Park, IN
DAY 9 Sun., Sept. 18 -- Lincoln SP to Lincoln Boyhood Home to Dale, IN
DAY 10 Mon., Sept. 19 -- Dale to Jasper, IN
DAY 11 Tues., Sept. 20 -- Jasper to Petersburg, IN
DAY 12 Wed., Sept. 21 -- Petersburg to Vincennes, IN
DAY 13 Thurs., Sept. 22 -- Vincennes to Westport, IL
DAY 14 Fri., Sept. 23 -- Westport to Robinson, IL
DAY 15 Sat., Sept. 24 -- Robinson to Walnut Prairie, IL
DAY 16 Sun., Sept. 25 -- Walnut Prairie to Martinsville, IL
DAY 17 Mon., Sept. 26 -- Martinsville to Greenup, IL
DAY 18 Tues., Sept. 27 -- Greenup to Charleston, IL
DAY 19 Wed., Sept. 28 -- Charleston to Lerna to Mattoon, IL
DAY 20 Thurs., Sept. 29 -- Mattoon to Sullivan, IL
DAY 21 Fri., Sept. 30 -- Sullivan to Mt. Zion, IL
DAY 22 Sat., Oct. 1 -- Mt. Zion to Decatur, IL
DAY 23 Sun., Oct. 2 -- Decatur to Lincoln Trail Homestead Park to Decatur
DAY 24 Mon., Oct. 3 -- Decatur to Buffalo, IL
DAY 25 Tues., Oct. 4 -- Buffalo to Cantrall, IL
DAY 26 Wed., Oct. 5 -- Cantrall to Lincoln’s New Salem to Petersburg, IL
DAY 27 Thurs., Oct. 6 -- Petersburg to Springfield, IL
DAY 28 Fri., Oct. 7 -- Springfield (Lincoln Home to Lincoln Tomb)

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