WASHINGTON D.C. — Monday is President’s Day, a time to remember and celebrate all of this nation’s presidents.
But Galion has a special kinship with the Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. His birthday is Feb. 12 and there is a celebration each year at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to remember him.
Galion and Abraham Lincoln will always have a connection. The original Lincoln Highway passed through Galion and after the former president was assassinated, his funeral train passed through Galion.
That connection continued again this week as Galion Mayor Tom O’Leary and Galion High School graduate Craig Harmon — were on hand and took part in the program.
Harmon has gone to the memorial program each year for the past 20 years. At one time, he operated the The Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives on the square in Historic Uptowne Galion and has spent decades researching and writing about the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives exists to this day, but only online. Learn more about it at www.lincoln-highway-museum.org.
This was O’Leary’s first time at the birthday celebration.
O’Leary and Harmon have know each other for years, from their days at Galion High School.
“Craig got in touch with me and asked me if I was interested in going to Washington with him,” O’Leary said. “It was an interesting trip. I’m glad I did it.”
The mayor said he was proud and happy to be able to represent Galion during program. He was one of many dignitaries to present a wreath during the program.
“There is that connection between Lincoln and Galion,” O’Leary explained. “I believe there is a need to recognize and celebrate that partnership and the fact that the Lincoln Highway has been so impactful on the City of Galion.
“It’s because of that highway and the railroads and the Harding Highway that Galion become the industrial hub that it was. It’s important we don’t forget about that part of our history and those connections.”
Harmon has been researching and writing about the Lincoln Highway for more than 20 years.
To say it is his passion is a gross understatement. He founded the Lincoln Highway Museum and Archives, hoping it would draw visitors and tourists to Galion. It was housed in the old JC Penney building. Financial troubles led to the closure of the local museum site, but it still survives on the Internet.
Harmon has traveled coast to coast along the highway stopping at communities and speaking to officials and at schools to share information about the Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first coast-go-coast roadway.
And wherever he went, he did research. He spent nine years living in Washington doing more research and developing contacts.
Harmon, 63, was diagnosed with cancer several years ago. He receives regular treatment at a Columbus hospital, but despite a body that doesn’t work as well as it used to, he has continued to research and write and spread the news about the Lincoln Highway.
He is a member of the Lincoln Birthday National Commemorative Committee that organized the celebration each year to honor Lincoln. In fact he is charge of soliciting letters from dignitaries and groups around the nation that pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln.
“The one from Donald Trump was messengered over just before the program Tuesday,” Harmon said.
Harmon once drove an old firetruck across the nation in his efforts to learn and spread the news about the Lincoln Highway. It was decorated with flags and emblems to publicize his interests.
Symbolism has always been a big part of Harmon’s life.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, he wore a hat that used to be worn by Ralph Cobey, a leading industrialist from Galion’s manufacturing pasty. He also talked to kids at Galion High School before he left, and took head bands from the GHS cheerleaders with him and they were part of the wreath display O’Leary presented.
“It’s important to me,” Harmon said. “I don’t want us to forget about the role the Lincoln Highway played in this area. And those ribbons signify another connection between Lincoln and Galion.”
Harmon has finished his research, although he admits he is always seeking more information. Now he is in the process of organizing that information for his website. He also has plans to write several books about the Lincoln Highway and its connection to different communities the Boy Scouts of America and more.