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Sycamore students learn about Lincoln from retired judge

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 12:27 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 10:48 p.m. CST
(Debbie Behrends -
Retired judge Kurt Klein arrived in beard and stovepipe hat on Tuesday, Feb. 11 to read about Abraham Lincoln to fourth-grade students at South Prairie Elementary School in Sycamore. The book "Abe Lincoln's Hat," was donated to the school by the Illinois Judges Association. On Monday, Klein read to students at North Elementary in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE — Students at South Prairie Elementary School got a visit from Abe Lincoln today.

In reality, the tall man in the stovepipe hat and long, black coat was retired judge Kurt Klein who visited to read "Abe Lincoln's Hat" and answer questions about the 16th president in honor of his birthday Wednesday.

"Do you know how old Abe Lincoln will be tomorrow?" Klein asked Emily Sullivan's fourth-grade class. "Two hundred and five. I look pretty good for 205, don't I?"

The book, donated by the Illinois Judges Association, details Lincoln's early life, from his birth in Kentucky to his work as an attorney and his election to the presidency. After reading from the book, Klein donated it to the school.

"One important lesson that Abe learned early was to be friendly to everyone and people will remember you and like you," Klein told the class.

Sullivan, who is Klein's daughter, told him that her class will visit New Salem and Lincoln sites in Springfield later in the school year. He told the class when she was a young girl, the whole family visited Ford's Theatre, where John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln and Petersen House, where he died later that night, in Washington, D.C.

After fielding questions from the students, and asking what they remember from the book he read, Klein said it's good to remember people who do good things, like Lincoln.

"When the Illinois Judges Association asked volunteers to speak to students about Lincoln, he jumped at the chance," said Klein's wife, Linda Klein.

She said he read to students at North Elementary School on Monday.

"Sometimes lawyers get a bad rap," she said, "so it's good to show Lincoln was a lawyer and a good man."

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