Anywhere you find a tribute to the President who claimed North Dakota as a home — you might just find Joe Wiegand and Austin Artz retracing the footsteps of history.
“This now is my seventh summer of bringing Theodore Roosevelt to life in Medora, North Dakota,” says Wiegand, a former Illinois politician who became so inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s grit, that he decided to bring him to life.
“Overcoming his asthma, overcoming the death of his father as a young man,” Wiegand says. “Overcoming the death of his wife and mother on the same day when he was just 25 years old.”
These days, Wiegand has company in Medora: Austin Artz portrays Teddy’s youngest son Quentin.
“You get to know him as if he was an acquaintance of yours,” Artz, a Minot native and graduate of University of North Dakota, says. “And then you just step into his shoes.”
“Now he’s featured in Medora,” Wiegand says. “He’s a part of my afternoon show.”
But later this month, you won’t find Teddy and his youngest son in Medora.
You see, Quentin served as an Army fighter pilot in the final months of World War I. He was deployed to France to assist them in their fight for freedom — and it was there that he died, nearly 100 years ago.
“At the end of his life he sacrificed his life for those who had nothing to sacrifice, and for those who had already sacrificed,” Artz says.
Which is why Joe Weigand and Austin Artz are headed to France.
“On July 14th, the centennial — 100 years, not only to the day, but to the moment that Quentin gave his life in France — we’ll be in the village where he was buried,” explains Wiegand. “There’ll be a parade, a laying of flowers.”
It’s a rare opportunity for two men who use their passion for “then” to make a better “now”.
“We know that for a lot of our young people, they’re going through hardship. They’ve got tragedy in their life. If they can hear the stories of a young Theodore Roosevelt who overcame his challenges – maybe I am still doing some public service,” Wiegand says.
“People really haven’t changed all that much,” Artz says. “What makes virtue really does not change.”
That’s what makes them two people you should know.
Click here to learn more about their upcoming trip to France.