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Bellingham woman wears shawl from Lincoln inaugural to Obama event

In March 4, 1861, as President Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office, a woman now known as Grandma Foy stood in the crowd in Washington, D.C., wearing a black Chinese silk shawl, according to the McKain family story. More than 21/2 years later, on Nov. 19, 1863, she wore the shawl as she listened to Lincoln give his short but famous Gettysburg Address.

On Tuesday, Jan. 20, as President Obama took the oath of office, Bellingham resident Debe McKain attended an inauguration viewing event at the Mount Baker Theatre, wearing the same shawl.

"It was amazing to me, because I know how important Lincoln is to Barack Obama, so that's why I wanted to wear this, because I felt I would be more a part of history," she said.

Her husband, Toby McKain, a teacher at Whatcom Middle School, said the shawl has been passed down through his family to him. He doesn't know the circumstances of Foy's attendance at both historic events.The shawl was given to him by his now-deceased father, Stowell McKain, who on July 6, 1979, wrote to his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter that Grandma Foy had attended both the inauguration and Gettysburg Address wearing it. In 1919, as the woman was blind and helpless, relatives escorted her from Petoskey, Mich., to Oakmont, Pa., where she died about a year later in a family house, he wrote.

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