Statue of Thomas Jefferson Unveiled at the Jeffco Administration & Courts Facility
To help celebrate the county's sesquicentennial, a bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson is on loan to the county and now sits proudly in the atrium of the Admin & Courts Facility. The statue is on loan from the collection of Greg and Sue Stevenson, local Jeffco residents.
The sculptor is George Lundeen, a Nebraska native; Lundeen was a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar who studied at the Academia de Belle Arte in Florence, Italy. In the 1970s, he established his studio in Loveland where he lives and works, sculpting portraits and interpretive works for universities, municipalities and corporations.
As a special guest, a local Thomas Jefferson reenactor joined the Commissioners for the ceremony and unveiling.
Mr. President’s alter ego is Dr. Jack Van Ens, who is the executive director of Creative Growth Inc. Dr. Van Ens holds two master’s degrees, including one in Colonial History, and a doctorate in communications. Since 1976 he has portrayed Thomas Jefferson in period costume. His book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes” was published in 2000.
Jefferson's spirit found in Arvada resident
by Rebecca Zimmerman
Thomas Jefferson — one to never sleep in always "eagerly seized the day," according to Arvada resident Jack Van Ens, which is exactly what Van Ens tries to do himself.
"Jefferson woke up every morning and said, 'What should I do today?"' said Van Ens, who wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning.
It is with the same inspiration that Van Ens says Jefferson has instilled in him a curiosity, love and hope for life.
Van Ens, who portrays the third president of the United States, can be spotted at various events around town dressed from head to toe in period dress. With a background as a Presbyterian minister, Van Ens said his ministry now comes through dramatizing Jefferson.
"When I announce I’m a Presbyterian minister, people outside of the church get suspicious," said Van Ens. "When I put on a wig, people become more receptive. I could just give speeches, but there is something magical about dramatizing Jefferson."
Van Ens got the idea to portray Jefferson after watching the stage play 1776 in Philadelphian for the bicentennial in 1976.
"I saw Jefferson on stage that night ... he's 6 foot 2 inches tall, and guess how tall I am?"
Van Ens said his portrayal of Jefferson is a product of 30 years of devoted research. A study in his home, that has several Jeffersonian-type relics (including three chairs and a desk), contains a shelf filled with hard-cover books —most of which are on the topic of Thomas Jefferson.
"Curiosity is the spark plug and spirit of life," said Van Ens. "Unless you have curiosity, you don't have a very rich and good life."
Besides portraying Jefferson —and sometimes Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards — at various clubs, schools and events around the Denver-metro area through his nonprofit Creative Growth Inc., Van Ens fills his life with writing, exercise and staying involved in the community. Van Ens contributes writings to several publications, including YourHub.com and the Vail Daily newspaper. He's even written his own book titled How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes. He said coming up with topics is never hard.
"It comes as easy as ever to write, "Van Ens said. "Not because I'm a genius ... the topics just shine. They are just there."
In the community, Van Ens has served as the program committee chair for the Good News Breakfast for the past 18 years — an annual breakfast in April celebrating leaders in Jefferson County.
He also is working with students at Mountain View High School in Westminster. The students are putting together projects where they pick a historical character and have to perform a five-minute skit dressed as their character.
Van Ens and his wife of 40 years, Sandy, love to travel. He says he also enjoys making travel plans. In May, they plan to travel to Monticello for a special tour.
"No day is a repeat of any other day," said Van Ens. "It enormously fills my creativity."
To learn more about Jack Van Ens, his nonprofit Creative Growth Inc. or to schedule a Jefferson visit, call 303-420-7416, e-mail email@example.com or go to www.thelivinghistory.com
Jack R. Van Ens, aka Thomas Jefferson
by Carole Lomond
Editor/Publisher of the City and Mountain Views news magazine
If you think the nasty, dishonest, mud slinging of the 2000 and
2004 elections was ugly, you need to recall what the founder of
the Democrat-Republican Party, Thomas Jefferson, was up against in 1800. Vicious bickering continued for months after election day, while the House of Representatives was locked in a bitter tie for electoral votes between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Alexander Hamnilton of the Federalist Party didn't trust Jefferson. But he despised Burr more. When he tipped his hand towards TJ, the tie was finally broken on the 35th ballot.
Jefferson believed in separation of religion and politics to prevent restriction of human rights and corruption. The Christian Right of the 1800s claimed that if Jefferson was elected, Americans would have to hide their Bibles. Imagine... Thomas Jefferson... author of the Declaration of In dependence adopted on July 4, 1776, being accused of serving the devil. "There are more than a few parallels with current elections," says Van Ens
Rather than ride in a luxurious coach drawn by horses, Jefferson walked from a simple boardinghouse to the new Capitol to take the oath of office. He spoke in support of a wise and lean government that would preserve the rights of states and give equal justice to all. He called for the national debt to be paid, freedom of the press and religion to be safeguarded. In 1803, Jefferson secured the Louisiana Purchase which doubled the area of the U.S. He funded the expedition West for Zebulon Pike, was re-elected in 1804, avoided war, established the University of Virginia, and retired to Monticello to write in 1809.
For the past 25 years, Presbyterian minister Jack Van Ens, has entertained thousands of people by performing Thomas Jefferson's passionate quest for Truth. Dressed in an 1800s costume and speaking with language of that time, Van Ens explores civic virtue, honesty, integrity, and provocative decisions that require sacrifice for the greater good. "What is moral governing? What are our responsibilities as citizens?" How can we cope with uncertainty as our nation ventures forth without knuckling to fear?
After completing two Master degrees and a Doctor of Ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary, Van Ens was a minister in Manhattan, New Jersey, Arvada, Aurora, and the Vail Valley. His story telling style recalls Colonial times when ministers spoke both in the Sanctuary and the Village Green. While serving as the minister at the Vail/ Beaver Creek Chapels in the 1990s, he performed
improvisation as Jefferson, supported by talented musicians who performed patriotic music.
Young Americans, from third grade to college, especially benefit from experiencing Van Ens' performance of the third President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson was a scientist, architect, fanner, educator, inventor geographer, and lover of the arts. His immense curiosity, talent and multiples interests are inspiration to calm today's extreme political bickering.
In 2000, Jack published his book HOW JEFFERSON MADE THE BEST OF BAD MESSES. He founded "Creative Growth," a non-profit, tax exempt 501 (c)(3) to receive grants and donations to fund performing Thomas Jefferson full time. He is favored by Rotary, Lion, and Elk Clubs, educational, fraternal, or business associations, the League of Women Voters and political organizations.
Rediscovering "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life. liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." can help heal the extreme split of Americans into blue or red states. Recalling the passion of Thomas Jefferson can stimulate Democrats, Republicans and Independents to restore faith in civic virtue, honesty, industriousness, integrity\ and sacrifice for the greater good.
Feel free to schedule Jack for entertaining your civic organization, by calling 303-420-7416 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jefferson's wig —the flip side
by Jim Sheeler
Reporter and 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Feature Writing
Rocky Mountin News - Saturday, July 3, 2004
With the presidential election only months away, the opponents zeroed in on the tall, quiet man with blue eyes, claiming that if the Republican were elected, he would favor the teaching of "murder,
robbery, rape, adultery and incest."
Inside his study in Arvada, another tall man with blue eyes who looks like Thomas Jefferson thought back to that venomous political race — 204 years ago.
"The election of 1800 was one of the most hotly contested, and there was plenty of mudslinging," said the Rev. Jack Van Ens, who has dressed up to play Jefferson at various events for nearly three decades.
"Now, you get all these people saying, 'If we could only get back to the days of the Founding Fatherk — they had their differences, but they were gentlemen.'"
He shook his gray-wigged head.
"They fought like cats and dogs."
For Van Ens, assuming the character of Jefferson means knocking off halos that often hover over the Founding Fathers and their time. As he reads the Declaration of Independence today at the Fourth of July celebratioh at Four Mile Historic Park in Denver, he also plans to remember the fallibility and humility of its author, along with the questions Jefferson left unanswered.
"Whatever we can do to dispel this myth of this toy figure of Jefferson, who just spun things off and danced through life," he said. "It wasn't like that. It was slogging through the muck."
"When we forget how tough it was," he said, "then we don't want to take the chances they did."
'Van Ens, 57, first donned Jefferson's colonial jacket and stockings in 1977, following the country's bicentennial celebration, when Van Ens lived in Philadelphia.
At the time, he was a recent graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary. As he read Jefferson's letters, he was inspired by what he had in common with the third president, and what he did not.
"I'm a clergy, a Presbyterian —the greatest enemies of Jefferson were the Presbyterians," he said. "What he teaches is the collision of politics and religion leads to basic human rights being restricted. Or flat-out corruption."
Those concerns led to Jefferson's famous letter in which he wrote of "a wall of separation between church and state" — and sparked a debate that never ended.
"From what we know, he never used that phrase again — in his conversation or in written works. In some ways, I wish he'd defined it, so I could have a road map," Van Ens said, raising a finger and smiling.
"But he gave us a compass."
Van Ens — who studied at Monticello — openly addresses possible reasons for many of Jefferson's decisions, including his ownership of slaves, and the financial troubles that plagued him later in life.
Some of his conclusions are included in How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes, a book that largely explores Jefferson's religious views and how they apply to everyday life.
Like many of Jefferson's writings, Van Ends said, the lessons are open to interpretation — and that's their beauty.
"I had a teacher once, at Princeton, who gave us a suggestion" for giving sermons, Van Ens said. "He said, 'Occasionally, you should come into the church, raise some questions and just let them hang out there, then say, 'Amen.'
"A good teacher doesn't give the right answer," he said, "but gives the right question."