This was the sidebar to a story I wrote about Roosevelt's Little White House in Warm Springs, GA in 2007.
By Theresa Shadrix
Anniston Star, The (AL)
Published: February 17, 2007
As the wind blows through the trees, Tom Wentland and Nancy Simko relax on the porch. Wentland adjusts his wheelchair while Simko focuses on the knitting project in her lap. Then Wentland spots an approaching visitor.
"Hi there, young man, and what is your name?" he asks. Shy and doubtful, the young boy is not sure if what he is seeing is real. He looks up to his mother for assurance and walks toward Wentland.
"So, do you have any questions for the president?" Wentland asks in a deep voice.
"Uh, no, sir." the boy replies, as he quickly makes his way to the door that leads back into the house.
Wentland is used to such perplexed responses from young visitors. After all, it is not every day one meets the 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), especially since he died in 1944.
History comes to life on special occasions in Warm Springs, Ga., at the Little White House, getaway home of the former president. The porch is the stage for Wentland as he portrays FDR and for Simko as first lady Eleanor.
For Wentland, it has been a 16-year engagement and along the way he has gathered a lot of information about the only president to be elected four times. It's a commitment that he takes very seriously and one he says leaves him humble at the end of the day.
"It is an incredible honor to be able to step into his skin and make him seem alive, like to make people understand what that time was like, what our country was going through with the Depression," says Wentland.
"Some days you feel like cardboard cutouts," says Wentland. "Then there are some days here when ... well, they are humbling."
Wentland finds it difficult to finish his sentence but Simko looks up from her knitting.
"People thank him. We have had World War II veterans thank us," she says. "These moments are precious."
History to life
Wentland and Simko appear as FDR and Eleanor on special dates at the Little White House:
· Jan. 30 - FDR's birthday.
· March 17 - FDR and Eleanor's wedding anniversary.
· Oct. 11 - Eleanor's birthday.
Copyright, 2007, The Anniston Star, Consolidated Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved.