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Articles & Local History > Ronald Reagan Memorial - Tampico (news article)

Tampico recalls president’s roots By Kay Luna . TAMPICO, Ill. —

Lloyd McIlhiney graciously tried to ignore the heat and his hunger pains Sunday, many long hours after unlocking the doors early at former President Ronald Reagan’s birthplace museum. .

Every time the museum worker thought about heading downstairs to eat lunch, more visitors showed up to walk through the rooms of the modest apartment on Illinois 172 where Reagan was born in 1911. .

And McIlhiney seemed pleased to meet each and every one, listening to visitors like Dan O’Rourke, of Chicago, talk about how Reagan influenced his decision to become Republican — much to the dismay of his devoutly Democrat family. .

    Photos by Derek Anderson/QUAD-CITY TIMES

Lloyd McIlhiney and his wife, Amy, have maintained the birthplace of President Ronald Reagan in Tampico, Ill. for more than six years. The room, in background, and second-story residence on South Main Street in which Reagan was born have been furnished to look the way it would have in the early 1900s. 

“He was such an anecdote to Jimmy Carter,” the 38-year-old tax attorney said. “Just from an economic standpoint, he was responsible for a lot of America’s prosperity, and that’s why I like him.” .

Soon after hearing about Reagan’s death, O’Rourke hopped into his car and drove several hours to tour the former president’s birthplace in tiny Tampico. He wasn’t alone. .

A steady stream of self-proclaimed history buffs and Reagan fans wandered into the birthplace museum and the Tampico Area Historical Society museum throughout the day Sunday, snapping photos and signing visitors’ books. .

Volunteers at the museums opened early and stayed late, accommodating the people who wanted to honor the president’s early life before becoming the nation’s 40th president. .

Nearby, the owners at the Dutch Diner restaurant — named in honor of Reagan’s nickname in 1981 — planned to stay open an hour later than usual to feed the out-of-town visitors making their way through the rural community. .

Around here, people still refer to Reagan as “president” or just plain “Dutch,” and kids grow up reciting facts about his life like multiplication tables. .

His Illinois roots are celebrated locally year-round, but his death has made people around the world more aware of his connections to Tampico and Dixon, historical society president Ann Martin said. .

Reagan also worked as a radio announcer in the Quad-Cities and an actor before entering politics.

. “I think a humble beginning is not necessarily a detriment,” McIlhiney said. “Smalltown, Midwestern American values were reflected in the character he became later in life.” .

McIlhiney and his wife, Amy, have devoted the past seven years of their lives telling tourists how Reagan was born in an apartment above a former bakery in downtown Tampico, which is decorated in decor of that period. .

 A clock on the bedside table in the very bedroom where Reagan was born is set at just a few minutes before 6 a.m., which Lloyd McIlhiney said is the time he came into the world on Feb. 6, 1911. .

Other markers now honor his death, including a makeshift memorial of flowers, a flag and a cross in front of the sign for Ronald Reagan Park. .

In the historical society museum’s front window, a large black-and-white portrait of the former president is decorated with a black sash in honor of his death. A handwritten note addressed to “the Reagan Family” is posted on the door with this message: “Remember death is not the end, only a new beginning.“ .

Today, patriotic wreaths will begin appearing on the front doors of almost every business in downtown Tampico in remembrance of his life. .

Martin said local memorial details have been preparing ways to honor Reagan in death, including planning a memorial service. A community choir has been practicing more than a year so it could sing there. .

 “We originally started planning for this a very long time ago,” she said. .

Others like Des Moines resident Dan Hecker, 28, and his friend Jon Crees, of Iowa City, hadn’t expected to celebrate Reagan’s heritage when they set out to go camping in Wisconsin for the weekend. .

They heard about the former president’s death before driving home Sunday and decided to detour through Dixon — Reagan’s boyhood hometown — and Tampico to visit his historic sites. .

They posed for photos in front of his boyhood home, saying how they remember growing up in the 1980s when they couldn’t imagine anyone else serving as president. .

Newspapers commemorating Reagan’s death lay scattered on the Dutch Diner’s bar, where owner Beverly Adamson talked with a few newcomers about Reagan’s legacy in Tampico as a “role model.” .

“We think he was very down to Earth, a family-oriented, soft man,” she said. “He was such a great man. We told our kids, you can be anything you want to be. When the president of the United States comes from your town, you know you can do anything.” .

 Kay Luna can be contacted at (563) 243-5039 or kluna@qctimes.com.

TAMPICO AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY - MUSEUM - FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY/RESEARCH CENTER  119 Main St., P. O. Box 154,  Tampico, IL  61283   www.tampicohistoricalsociety.com   tampicoareahistory@gmail.com  We are an all-volunteer organization so your donations are always appreciated!  Sign up to receive our e-newsletter. Thank you!  Visit us on FACEBOOK.