Beloved volunteer’s family donates to Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum


John P. “Jack” Navins volunteered at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum for 17 years, joyfully sharing Lincoln’s story with visitors until his sudden passing last year. Now his family is honoring Navins’s memory with a $100,000 donation in his name.

The money will help the ALPLM build a roughly $500,000 exhibit that teaches children about the rights and responsibilities of being a good citizen.

Navins spent 22 years in the Navy before retiring as a captain. He felt it was important for people to contribute to society as good citizens, his sisters said.

“He would be so excited to be part of creating an exhibit that, for years to come, will encourage children to follow Abraham Lincoln’s example and make the world a better place,” said Mary Pat Wlazik of Plymouth, Minn., and Kitty Warner of Owatonna, Minn.

Navins developed a fascination with Lincoln and the Civil War as a boy growing up in St. Paul, Minn. A doctor, he went into private practice in Lincoln’s hometown after leaving the Navy. Eventually, he began volunteering at the presidential library, giving nearly 4,500 hours of service.

Wlazik, Warner and Warner’s husband, Dan, recalled visiting Navins at the museum and watching him work.

“He got such a kick out of greeting the buses and the tours,” they said. “He loved sharing his knowledge, and he always did it with genuine enthusiasm. Jack never acted like he was reciting from a script.”

Navins, who was 73 when he died, was a beloved figure among the ALPLM’s volunteer team.

“Everyone knew and respected Jack,” said Christina Shutt, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “We are touched that his family wants to honor his memory by supporting the work of the ALPLM, particularly our efforts to educate future generations about citizenship.”

Jeremy Carrell, the ALPLM’s volunteer services director, added: “Jack had a servant’s heart. He was helpful to each visitor, whether he was conversing with a scholar who wanted to know about the intricacies of Lincoln’s life or a small child who was learning about this great man for the first time. That was the Jack we all knew and loved.”

The mission of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is to inspire civic engagement through the diverse lens of Illinois history and sharing with the world the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. We pursue this mission through a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship built on the bedrock of the ALPLM’s unparalleled collection of historical materials – roughly 13 million items from all eras of Illinois history.

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