by Cliff and Nancy Hill
From his second floor office in the Natureview Properties Building, Tom Mall enjoys looking down on the bronze Abraham Lincoln statue that he was instrumental in bringing to Rockford. Mall particularly enjoys the reactions of those who discover the statue for the very first time.
Ideally sited on a spur of the White Pine Trail that leads to a boardwalk along the Rogue River, the life-size and lifelike Lincoln statue is discovered and enjoyed by people on a daily basis.
Lincoln is seated on a bench that invites passerby to sit and engage Lincoln in what Mall says appears to be, “ A silent conversation, perhaps in thanks, to one of our greatest Presidents.”
People interact with the statue in many ways. Photo opportunities are common throughout the day. Some stand in awe of the exacting detail of the statue. Others reach out and touch Lincoln’s hand or face. Still others simply wonder what is on Lincoln’s mind as he sits with his right arm on a stack of books, and in his other hand perhaps a draft of the Gettysburg Address.
Mall tells us that his very favorite sighting, one day, was that of a young woman who stood before the statue for some time and then bent over and kissed Lincoln on the forehead and then walked away.
A chance photo taken soon after the statue was installed is one of Mall’s favorites. The photo is that of the children of three out-of-town families from Grand Rapids, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. Surrounding Lincoln on that day were eleven young children, two were black, one of which was seated in his lap. This being 147 years after Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, a just over two-minute speech regarded as one of the greatest in American history, adds poignancy to the photo.
The City of Rockford has recently placed additional benches trailside adjacent to the statue that invite visitors to sit and, perhaps, contemplate where we have come as a nation since the Civil War.
If you’ve not already discovered Rockford’s Abraham Lincoln statue for yourself, now is the time! We already know of many Rockford area schoolteachers who are thinking of using it in their itineraries for class field trips.