Friends and family celebrate the 131st birthday of Will Rogers
11/10/2010 6:52:34 AM
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 Kowboy Kal
         performs rope tricks during the Will Rogers Days for students visiting the
         birthplace ranch of Will Rogers in Oologah, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Kowboy Kal performs rope tricks during the Will Rogers Days for students visiting the birthplace ranch of Will Rogers in Oologah, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
By WILL CHAVEZ Senior Reporter CLAREMORE, Okla. – Nov. 4, 1879, in Oologah, Indian Territory was an ordinary day. But 131 years later, that day means a lot to family and admirers of Cherokee cowboy, humorist and actor Will Rogers because it is the day of his birth. For four days during the first week in November, the towns of Oologah and Claremore, where Rogers was born at and planned to retire to, celebrate the life of a man who was beloved by the entire country at the time of his death 75 years ago. Will Rogers Days also commemorate the opening of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore on Nov. 4, 1938. At his birthplace ranch in Oologah and at the museum, activities were held to honor a man who never forgot his roots and often visited friends and relatives in Rogers County. Lester Lurk, of St. Genevieve, Mo., attended the Oologah celebration bearing a striking resemblance to Rogers. People looked twice at him as he passed them wearing a gray suit, fedora hat and haircut like Rogers had in the 1920s and 1930s. Lurk said he is not a Rogers re-enactor, but enjoys taking part in the celebration. The farmer said people have told him during the years that he resembles Rogers, so he said he began reading about and learning more about Oklahoma’s favorite son. “I thought the only thing we have in common is that we both have straight hair. I could not see anything where I looked like him,” he said. However, he said after seeing more photos of Rogers and hearing about the resemblance more, he agrees he shares a likeness with the Cherokee actor. In 2009, he said he visited the gift shop inside the museum and was told by an employee he “looked like him” and stood like Rogers. “He said no one has ever walked through the door that looked like him more than I do,” Lurk said. Also taking part in the celebration was Doris “Coke” Lane Meyer, of Claremore, a great-niece of Rogers, who said her uncle would have enjoyed the festivities. “He would be so happy with all of this because he loved the families, and he wanted all the children and everybody to always gather together, and that’s why today is wonderful,” she said. Meyer is the granddaughter of his Will’s sister, Maud Rogers Lane. Meyer said her grandmother helped care for her younger brother after they lost their mother when Will was 10 years old. “Every chance he got going back and forth across the county he would always stop and go to Chelsea (in Rogers County) to visit his sisters,” she said. “When my grandmother became paralyzed and was bedfast, he would make a special effort to come. He was so loving with my grandmother, and I remember him for that.” The birthday celebration began at Rogers’ birthplace in Oologah with entertainment and the serving of birthday cake. A wreath was placed on Nov. 4 at the Rogers’ family tomb on the museum grounds. Will and Betty Rogers and three of their children and a daughter-in-law are interred in the tomb on land purchased by Rogers in 1911 as a future home site. Other events took place on Nov. 5 and led up to the annual Will Rogers Day Parade on Nov. 6 down Will Rogers Boulevard in Claremore. Rogers’ great-granddaughter Jennifer Rogers Etcheverry, of Bakersfield, Calif., flew in for the event to honor her grandfather and partake in the activities. She said she has taken part in the event since she was a child. “The family has always been involved, and we’ve always made it a part of our activities in November,” she said. “It means a lot to the family that people still remember Will Rogers and they still honor him and they’re still spreading the message of who he was.” • (918) 207-3961
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