Search For History
Local Couple Visits Presidential Grave Sites
Writer & Photographer / Melissa Gibson
On a trip in the fall of 1991 to the New England area, Jim and Connie Sieferman found themselves enjoying a picnic lunch, complete with turkey sandwiches, Pringles chips and Diet Pepsi, within view of President Calvin Coolidge’s gravesite.
Connie says the year following that vacation, she and Jim would recall the time they had “lunch with the President”, eventually shortening the reference to “Pringles with the Prez” with fondness.
A project was born for the couple, now married for 38 years.
They began planning little trips to see a Presidential gravesite or a detour from vacation plans to add to their scrapbook.
On July 19, 2017 (also Jim’s 70th birthday) the journey was complete — 38 presidential grave sites over the course of 26 years, and a photo of Connie biting into a Pringles chip at each one.
The pair (Jim being a natural history buff and veteran) would research the president prior to the trip and add in their own special twist along the way.
“It was really difficult in some places to smuggle in a potato chip,” Connie says. “Arlington was probably the hardest because they stand guard there.”
Still others, like Grover Cleveland’s site is barely marked.
“It was interesting to see how they all held the same office yet chose such different things for themselves,” Connie says. “Nowadays they have presidential libraries and often choose to be buried there.”
The president’s former and post-presidency lives were also educational for the couple.
“They had personal lives, were human and were real people,” Connie says. “Truman was a hat maker, Jimmy Carter a peanut farmer. That part of their lives was very interesting too.”
The trips come with a unique experience and story to tell about each site.
The couple was in the crowd at Gerald Ford’s funeral and burial. They agree Ronald Reagan’s gravesite is their favorite due to the picturesque landscape and learned of a “less romanticized” version of Abraham Lincoln’s life in Springfield, IL.
They’ve been across the United States, sometimes stopping by five or six sites in one trip.
“If you’re interested, you’ll find a way,” Jim says. “I don’t know that there’s as much emphasis on (history education) anymore. In the early 80’s I was flipping through a Social Studies book and there were just a couple of paragraphs on Kennedy.”
“That was a huge touchstone in my life,” Jim says.
Hopefully, their journey will inspire others to learn more of their American history.
“Our kids go on vacation to Disney World and we love Disney too, but perhaps they should be going to Washington D.C. as well,” Connie says.
“We make light of our Pringles game but we do take the time to recognize what these men gave to our country and it always gives us pause,” Connie says.