Claremore Man Filling Shoes Of Will Rogers

Sunday, June 24th 2007, 2:10 pm
By: News On 6

CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) _ He looks like Will Rogers. He talks like Will Rogers. Sometimes it's hard to tell when the Will Rogers quotes stop and the Andy Hogan original sayings start.

``I'm the closest thing to a living Will Rogers on this hill,'' quipped the retired educator-turned-Will Rogers Memorial part-timer.

People do tell Andy Hogan he looks like Will Rogers. He said, ``I've always been interested in him . . . wanted to be a cowboy like him.''

Hogan even ``rodeoed a little bit . . . until I found out I wasn't any good at it.''

A broken jaw when he was in the rodeo arena cost him a semester in college, so he quit rodeo and concentrated on education.

``Everybody in my family was involved in education,'' Hogan said. His mom was the school cook, his dad was the school janitor and ``all four of us kids were teachers at one time or another.''

Hogan began his college studies as an English major.

``In the first 56 years of my life I practiced good grammar. Now I talk like Will,'' he said with a grin.

Hogan began his education career in Sand Springs, teaching at the junior-high level for 2 1/2 years. Then he moved to Osage County, where he remained 11 years. He said he learned a lot at that little school because he was involved in every aspect of education. He was teacher, coach and bus driver and had a good working knowledge of cafeteria operations.

He came to Claremore in 1975 as Claremont Elementary principal. Even then, he occasionally drove a school bus. He said it was sometimes good to ``just get out of the building.''

``I'll always treasure my days at Claremont,'' he said. ``My wife was the speech therapist there and I got to be her boss for six hours a day!

``Elementary kids are so much fun because they are honest, brutally honest.''

A man of many interests, Hogan is a long bow hunter and a runner. He said running is his passion. He meets up with friends he refers to as ``the old timers'' at the Rec Center to begin their runs. He's a long distance runner, competing in events ranging from 3.1 miles to 9.3 miles, ``except when you are a runner you learn to measure in kilometers.''

In 1999, he went to work at the Claremore Super Rec Center and loved it. He had already enjoyed the spotlight as Will Rogers and played Oklahoma's favorite son three times in local productions. His performances didn't go unnoticed.

Andy said Michelle Carter, then Will Rogers Memorial Director, encouraged him to come to work at the Memorial.

Finally, he decided to make the change. ``You need to retire from something every few years,'' he explained.

So now you'll find Hogan in the Will Rogers Memorial gift shop every Wednesday. Or, he may in the theater at the other end of the building, telling a group of school children all about Will. Or, standing at the foot of the larger-than-life statue and looking outside as he answers questions for a busload of tourists.

He often sports a ``Will Rogers for President'' button and reminds everyone that Will Rogers' sayings are as pertinent now as they were ``back then.''

He tells visitors, ``I want you to know more about Will Rogers when you leave here than you did when you came.'' He explains to a group of youngsters that ``Will just wanted to be a cowboy. He rode his horse to school and he made other people laugh.''

Hogan tells Will Rogers stories. ``Everybody likes stories,'' he explained. ``That's why we read novels, not phone books.''

He loves his ``retirement job.'' One highlight was ``doing a gig'' at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. He said he was treated like he was Will Rogers, ``like royalty.''

He told his wife, ``I could learn to like this.''

Seriously, he said, ``people revere Will.'' Hogan has picked up so many quotes and mannerisms because they are all around him at the Memorial. Besides, ``Will's a fun person.

``Now that I'm retired, I enjoy more and more doing less and less.''