In an alternate world, the then-nascent nation of the United States might have fought against a British admiral by the name of George Washington.
As Vern Frykholm told it, Washington was put forth by his half-brother, Lawrence, to seek a commission in the British Navy. It was only the words of his widowed mother, Mary, who urged him to stay in the colonies that made him change his mind.
The story was embellished a bit, Frykholm admits, though it hit on a key point of Washington’s career. He was a man of service — not a politician by trade, but one by circumstance.
Frykholm is a professional Washington reenactor, who travels across the country to entertain and educate Americans with tales of the most prominent founding father.
Frykholm spoke as Washington, bedecked in the general’s military coat and hat, at a gathering of Tukes Valley Middle School students during the Washington State Sons of the American Revolution annual conference at the Heathman Lodge in Vancouver on April 9. The students had taken part in an assignment where they were instructed to write a letter to Washington. They asked questions about his life, the time period he lived in and how his experience related to the students’ modern-day life.
Based on questions poised by his school-aged subjects, Frykholm spent the bulk of his talk on young Washington, who lived in the colonies with his family that ascended into wealth through the tobacco trade. When his father, Augustine, died during the younger Washington’s youth, he was thrust into a situation where he had to value the stability of his family with his own pursuits.
That balance, Frykholm said, was the reason Washington led his life supporting the common good while embracing the concept of liberty.
Linda Korum, one of the fifth grade teachers at Tukes, said it was the first year the school had the opportunity to take part in the event. She said the American Revolution was part of the history curriculum for fifth grade students.
“It’s just a great opportunity for the kids to be able to ask questions and spark curiosity, which I think is really important with fifth graders,” Korum said.
Korum said having a tangible example of an American icon for her students helps give context to the idea of a leader for all people.
“The way our country is so divided, we need someone like George to come in, who is not a politician … to come in and help lead,” Korum said.
In Sequim, there is a bed and breakfast that is a re-creation of Mount Vernon. It was there Frykholm heard Peter Lillback speak about a book he wrote about the founding father’s life, which set the course for Frykholm’s own life after his retirement from real estate appraisal.
“Why doesn’t the state of Washington have a George Washington?” Frykholm said.
He ended up taking that role after taking a tour in 2012 of historical sites ending at Valley Forge.
Frykholm said he’s done more than 450 events as the founding father, including a recent appearance at Mount Rushmore. He said his own history classes around the time he was in fifth grade were boring, which is something he tries to alleviate in his own performances.
“To get somebody to come in and interact like that, they’ve never had that,” Frykholm said.
Frykholm remarked on the divisiveness of current political discourse, saying a figure like Washington is an important focus to bridge those gaps.
“He was an American for everyone,” Frykholm said.
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