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Lucretia Garfield – 1881 (by Mathew Brady/L.C. Handy – LOC)




Debbie Weinkamer

First Lady Lucretia Garfield


Skip Trombetti, Van’s Photos, Mentor, OH

Deborah Weinkamer as Lucretia Garfield...

Debbie has been involved with the Garfield family story since 1998 and has done extensive research into their life and times.  She has been portraying Lucretia Garfield since 2001, when she teamed up with Ed Haney as James A. Garfield.  Having an Associate in Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, Debbie strives to make her presentations engaging, meaningful, and educational – for audiences of all ages.

 She continues to be involved at local sites as the Lead Volunteer at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, OH, and as a seasonal, volunteer docent at the Garfield Memorial Cabin in Moreland Hills, OH.  She holds membership in the National First Ladies’ Library in Canton, the Ohio History Connection, Lake County Historical Society, and the Moreland Hills Historical Society, as well as in the local Civil War Roundtable. 

 Debbie is honored to be personal friends with the Cleveland-area descendants of President James A. and Lucretia Garfield.

 She is married to her high school sweetheart (a history enthusiast), and has two married sons and two grandsons.

 To read an interesting guest blog spot "written" by Mrs. Garfield titled, “The Vanishing First Lady” – or Am I?" click the following link below:


Debbie also created a touching story about the evolution of James and Lucretia Garfield’s courtship and marriage for Valentine’s Day 2018.  It can be found at the link below:



                  Programs Available

“Civil War on the Homefront: Lucretia Garfield in Hiram, OH



Step into the shoes of Lucretia Garfield, facing her husband’s absence during the Civil War.

Hear tales of her life as a young wife and mother in Hiram, OH: establishing their first home, raising a toddler, participating in homefront activities with other soldiers’ wives, all while concerned about her husband, two brothers, and neighbors off fighting with the Union Army.

An excerpted letter or two between Gen. Garfield and Lucretia may be shared as part of the presentation.


“Portrait of a 19th Century Marriage:

The Courtship & Marriage of James & Lucretia Garfield”


Lucretia Rudolph Garfield shares the evolution of her courtship and marriage to James Garfield. What began with “the stern word duty” and progressed through the “Dark Years,” proved to be a loving union of true partners by the time they reached the Executive Mansion in 1881. 

 Listen, learn, and experience a view of how their relationship changed as Debbie gives a first-person account of the details of their private lives.




The Garfields’ letters - saved by Lucretia and edited by John Shaw in Crete and James – chronicle their relationship, and supply the narrative with candor and perseverance.


“An Ohio Girl in Washington”

How does a shy, reserved, farmer’s daughter from Garrettsville, OH grow up to become a US Congressman’s wife and First Lady?


Lucretia Rudolph Garfield shares stereopticon slides (you’d call it a PowerPoint presentation) that reveal her life in Washington City during the 1860s to 1880s.  Discover how and where the Garfield family lived when Congress was in session.  Learn about their vagabond life in Ohio every summer ~ and how that changed when they purchased their Mentor (OH) farm, “Lawnfield.”  You’ll also empathize with Lucretia’s hesitancy to put her family’s life in a “fishbowl” for reporters and Washington socialites to critique.


“A Conversation with Mary & Lucretia”

with Marian King as Mary Todd Lincoln

Two American women – from different generations – sharing their differences and commonalities.  Mary Lincoln and Lucretia Garfield meet over tea and discuss their paths to the White House and beyond.  You will be surprised about the experiences they had in common!  Hear them expound on interesting topics such as their educations and how they met their husbands, with private stories about marriage and their children.  Discover how they dealt with life in the Executive Mansion ~ and assassination.  

These two educated, intelligent women also examine their early lives and how they grew into independent widows.  One becomes the “Vanishing First Lady,” while the other remains one of the most misunderstood First Ladies.

Join us for a conversation that was never in your history books.  It’s also a perfect way to celebrate Women’s History Month!  


“Beyond the Veil”

 With Mary Lincoln & Lucretia Garfield

 The "veil" represents death, and to go beyond it can mean a near-death experience or reincarnation, or it can refer to transcending the ethereal through meditation or a séance, in which the living attempt to communicate with the dead.

 In the 19th Century, many middle-to-upper class people believed in Spiritualism.  It was especially appealing to women who were grieving the death of a loved one.

 We take you back to 1881: a time when families had lost loved ones to childhood illnesses and civil war; where a floral wreath was attached to the front door to indicate a death in the family and funerals were held in parlors at home; when mourning rituals often lasted a year or more – and many widows never returned to wearing cheerful colors.

Two former First Ladies try to find some solace after experiencing unspeakable tragedies. 

Portrayed by Marian King & Debbie Weinkamer

“Life After President Garfield”

The terrible tragedy of President Garfield’s assassination in 1881 shattered Lucretia’s world.  First Lady for only three months, she was suddenly thrust into the spotlight during his suffering after the shooting, staying constantly by his side.  She was admired and respected by her fellow Americans and people abroad as she publicly exhibited strength and courage.  However, her shy and private nature resumed after her husband’s death when she returned to Mentor, Ohio.

Through her own words, learn more about Lucretia Garfield’s dedication to her husband’s memory and discover how she occupied her remaining 36-1/2 years.  Debbie’s portrayal of the Widow Garfield at the turn of the twentieth century will explain how her children achieved their own destinies and why her husband had always said that Lucretia “rose up to every occasion.”

(Photo by Jesse Reed)

“A Snowbird’s Tale”



Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Widow Lucretia travelled to South Pasadena, CA yearly from Fall to late Spring to avoid the harsh northeastern Ohio winters.  You’ll hear the story of train travel to the “Mediterranean of the West.”  What other famous ladies lived nearby?  You’ll see details of the Greene & Greene craftsman bungalow built for Lucretia in 1903.  Was she a Grand Marshal in the Rose Parade?


Also available: 


“A Garfield Family Album”


Learn more about the descendants of James and Lucretia through a PowerPoint presentation by Debbie Weinkamer:

  • Discover what the five Garfield children grow-up to accomplish

  • See family photos

  • Hear wedding stories

  • Learn about college, occupational, and public service achievements

  • Are there modern descendants?

  • All highlighted in this informative program! 

 “Lucretia R. Garfield: A Remarkable Life”

 A PowerPoint presentation by Debbie Weinkamer featuring the story of an Ohio woman whose life goes from Portage County, OH ~ to the White House ~ and to young widowhood.  Is “Discreet Crete” really a “Vanishing First Lady?” 

 Discover what fills her life after her husband’s assassination and funeral, and what her children and grandchildren believe about the woman who lives to be 85 years old.  What is contained in her will?  Is she laid to rest next to her husband at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland?

Debbie Weinkamer is a member of the National First Ladies Library in Canton, Ohio.



What people say about Debbie...

James R. Garfield II, the great-grandson of President James Garfield, used to say, “If I want to know anything about my ancestors, I ask Debbie.”



Lucretia with Sisters Tea Room staff


Mrs. Garfield chats with guests


Interacting with the audience

Portrait of Lucretia Garfield by Peter Baumgras, Washington, DC 

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We Made History- a group of living historical re-enactors who are more than impersonators of historical figures-they are serious portrayers of U.S. Presidents and First Ladies

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Last modified: 03/05/2019