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The life of a World War I veteran and former Albion resident Manderson Lehr will be brought back to light with a historical play set for 2 p.m. on Sunday inside the performance gym of Boone Central High School, 605 S 6th St.

“I feel that it is good to remember ... Even though the community may be small, the people that grew up there can go on to do big things,” said Paul Hosford, co-director of the Albion Area Arts Council and the secretary/treasurer for the Boone County Historical Society. “Also, Manderson (Lehr) was very well known, at the time, and I think he serves as a good representation of all the brave men and women who have served their country.”

The American Legion Post 162 in Albion was named in honor of Lehr, who passed away during WWI while he was battling against three German airplanes. The play, as well as the open house from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday at the Boone County Museum, are sponsored by that group, as well as the Boone County Historical Society and the Albion Area Arts Council. Both events are open to the public.

The play is based on a book Lehr’s grandniece compiled with the letters he wrote during the war to his family and friends. Hosford noted open house attendees will have the chance to take a closer look at the book, as well as Lehr’s uniform and other items from World War I.

“We know a lot about Manderson because he wrote a lot of letters to his family and friends and fortunately his family saved them,” Hosford said.

Pat Boilesen, president of the Boone County Historical Society, also put together a video about Lehr and the WWI era that will play during the open house.

The one-man play is geared toward commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Lehr, who passed away on July 15, 1918. After several years serving on the French Foreign Legion helping to transport wounded soldiers to the hospital, Lehr transferred to the Franco-American Air Corps to learn how to fly an airplane.

Lehr later joined the Lafayette Escadrille, a military division consisting of American volunteers, to aid the French during WWI against the Germans.

“These pilots saw themselves as repaying some of that debt,” Hosford said, noting the division was named after Marquis de La Fayette, a French hero of the American Revolutionary War who brought ships into the U.S.

It took Hosford and his son, Thomas, one month to put together the script for the play, followed by two more months of practice. Thomas, who currently goes to Nebraska Wesleyan University and is majoring in psychology, is actively involved in the university’s theater department. But, Sunday will mark the first time he takes the stage solo.

“Not many people know about Manderson (Lehr) even though he’s from our town and an actual hero,” Thomas said. “(The play) really teaches to be yourself and never be afraid to try new things. I hope that it can possibly inspire people because the play teaches about valor and bravery.”

Those who are interested to learn more about the play and the open house are encouraged to contact Boilesen at 402-395-6558 or Hosford at 402-395-6727.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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