Story by SGT Rachel Grothe on 02/06/2019
CANTON, Ohio -- Hundreds of people filled the halls of the President William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. Many attendees appeared to have arrived there via a time machine or snow covered horse drawn carriages instead of cars for the 176th birthday celebration of President William McKinley on January 26, 2019, here.
"Of course, the wreath laying ceremony is the highlight of the day," said Kimberly Kenney, executive director of the President William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum.
Attendees warmed up before the outdoor wreath laying ceremony by testing venison during open
hearth cooking demonstrations, taking tours focused on both history and science, and watching Civil War reenactor demonstrations.
"He loved science and the stars," said Kenney, "so, "McKinley Day" is a great day to come out to the museum. We cut ticket prices for the day so it's more accessible to everyone in the community, and we pull out all of the stops with extra programming.
"The wreath laying ceremoniously goes through organizations that would have meant something to President McKinley, from his time as a young enlisted Civil War Soldier to his time as President, eight wreaths are placed in his honor," Kenney told the crowd of ceremony attendees outside the museum at the bottom of the snowy stairs leading to the McKinley family tomb.
Civil War re-enactors place the first wreath honoring the 25th president, followed by the Masons of McKinley Lodge 431, the Department of Ohio Army & Navy Union Ladies Auxiliary, and the Department of Ohio Army & Navy Union, Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei, Ohio State Senator W. Scott Oelslager, Ohio State Representative Thomas E. West, Victoria Van Buskirk, field representative for Congressman Bob Gibbs, and Brig. Gen. Tony W. Wright and Staff Sgt. Jill Spencer, 88th Readiness Command, for the President of the United States.
"It's an honor for me to be here on behalf of the President of the United States. They've done a great job with everything here at the museum," said Wright, deputy commander of the 88th Readiness Division.
The ceremony concluded with a salute to the wreath placed on behalf of the president, a 21-gun salute and cannon fired by the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry company G, Ohio Living History Association Civil War re-enactment group, and Taps as played by Sgt. Martin J. Maggart from the U.S. Army Reserve's 338th Army Band.
"He was an extraordinarily kind man. He requested mercy for his assassin while he was dying." Chap. (Maj) Christopher Laughlin, 300th Military Police Brigade Chaplain, remarked during a museum tour. "How many of us could be that good of a person under those circumstances? I'm glad I can do the prayer for a ceremony honoring a man like this."