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Pat Reeder is the public relations director for the Will Rogers Memorial


Museum, and said the patrons at the Fly-in “simply swarm” the duo when they land. Reeder was there in 2009 when the Lurks stopped in for their fi rst visit. She said it is a delight to work with Lester. “He is very much like Will in his philosophy,” Reeder said. This may be why the demands for Lester Lurk as Will Rogers have increased. In addition to smaller appearances for schools and organiza- tions, Lester comes as Will Rogers for the annual birthday celebration at Dog Iron Ranch (Rogers’ birthplace) part of the Will Rogers Days festivities, where he speaks to fourth- and fi fth-grade students. He marched as “Oklahoma’s favorite son” in the 2014 ‘89er Celebration parade in Guthrie and has been invited back for 2015. His appearances aren’t limited to the Sooner State—he’s now known in his home state for his historical reenactments. “People around here call me Will sometimes,” he joked. “Even though I am not good at twirling that rope.” Jim McCarty, editor for Rural Missouri magazine, hired Lester to come


as Will Rogers to the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives’ 75th anniversary celebration. McCarty said he asked Lester to come for an hour, but he gave much more of his time. “He is universally loved by people in the area,” McCarty said. “I was amazed at how much he looks like Will Rogers. And then, you get him in character, and he is a dead ringer.” Growing up and working on a farm and also in construction, Lester was not experienced with acting, although he does do some auctioneer- ing work from time to time and admits he likes being in front of people now.


His wife Leanna is happy to accompany him, dressing as Will Rogers’ wife, Betty, and coordinating his clothing and appointments. Lester said if it weren’t for his wife talking with strangers, they wouldn’t be enjoying this current ride. “Sometimes I’m just having so much fun, and I think this is not real.


This can’t be real,” Lester said. But he does have one regret. He wants to thank the man from the show in Branson who fi rst mentioned his resemblance to Will Rogers. But they did not exchange names. “He was a tall, slender man and had three good-looking ladies with him,” Lester said. Lester emphatically said he and Will share at least one common trait aside from bone structure. “Neither one of us liked school. Will wanted to be out riding horses, not in school. He’d get in trouble for roping the girls.” Those in Oklahoma and beyond know Will Rogers not only as a gifted performer, but also as a gentleman and dedicated family man who died too early. “He lived a lot of life in those 55 years,” Lester


said. The same can be said for your soon-to-be 77 years, Lester Lurk, so rope on— even if that lariat work isn’t quite as sharp as the man you honor with your portrayal.


To Our Male


Lurk and Joe Bacon, “Wiley,” attend the Wiley Post Fly-in. Courtesy photo


Will Rogers Memorial Museum The Will Rogers Memorial Museum


(WRMM) in Claremore, Okla., has been providing tours, artifacts and entertainment centered on Oklahoma Cherokee cowboy and entertainer, Will Rogers, since it opened in 1938, but for 2015 the organization is fur- thering its commitment to young Oklahomans. Pat Reeder, public relations direc-


tor for WRMM, said the museum not only receives students from regional schools all year round, but now WRMM employees will travel the state to bring artifacts and history lessons to grade school children. The museum offers traditional fare including artwork, memorabilia, ra- dio recordings, movie screenings and an extensive library and ar- chives, along with tours of Will Rogers’ birthplace on a nearby ranch by Lake Oologah. In addition, the museum also offers activities for children and youth. The museum is open daily, 10 a.m.


– 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, and free for 17 and under. Membership deals are also available, and along with additional museum information, can be found at www.willrogers.com.


Left: Lester Lurk, “Will,” has become universally loved and is in high demand for his impersonation appearances. Right: Lurk interacts with a group from a veterans home. Courtesy photos


FEBRUARY 2015 17


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