WEST HAVEN -- If you want to know anything about George Washington, ask Gary Van Dolzer. He not only knows just about everything there is to know about the man, he also has an uncanny resemblance to him -- and it goes way beyond knowledge and resemblance.
He spends much of his time volunteering his re-enactment of George Washington whenever asked by schools and other groups.
Dolzer has spent the past 20 years not only reading and discovering everything he could about the first president of the United States, but about 10 years ago "on a bit of a lark" he began re-enacting him.
"The first time I performed this type of thing was for a Boy Scout gathering when one of the entertainers fell through and I acted the part of a footman. From then on I was hooked on historical re-enactment.
"I had no idea this many years later I would still be so enmeshed."
He said he has studied the lives of other founding fathers, but was always drawn back to Washington. The more he discovered in his research, the more he began to realize that his fascination with the life of this man might be more than just pure curiosity.
"I don't think I am doing this by accident."
The similarities in his and Washington's lives are "eerie, to say the least."
Some of these are:
* Washington's noted Footman was Jonathan Marble, Dolzer's lineal great-grandfather.
* Both Washington's and Dolzer's birthday is Feb. 22.
* Dolzer's wedding anniversary, Dec. 14, is the anniversary of Washington's death.
* Physically they are closely mirrored when at the same age:
o Neck 18"
o Chest 47"
o Sleeve 37"
o Waist 37" for Dolzer and 38" for Washington
o 220 pounds for Washington and 223 pounds for Dolzer
o Washington's height 6'2" and Dolzer 6'1 1/2"
He said the three areas where there is some difference between them is his shoe size, 11, and Washington, 13; hat size is 7 3/4 and Washington's 7 1/4; thighs, 24" and Washington, 28" (but he said he doesn't ride a horse).
"One of my uniforms, crafted by my wife, is a direct copy of Washington's inauguration brown homespun suit and is a favorite when enacting some very special stories."
Dolzer's second uniform is a "nearly" precise copy of the uniform on display in the Smithsonian right down to the fabric and dyes.
It was produced from Washington's own measurements and it was made in Valley Forge by an exclusive tailor on site. It requires six months in production, then alteration, and "the cost is well over $1,500 not counting the hat and boots, which alone are over $500."
He also has authentic boots, sword and cane replicas as well as other accoutrements.
Dolzer is well equipped to give his audience a true depiction of what it might have been like to stand before Washington and hear him talk about his times. He said he almost feels an obligation to see the "spark of a hero" grow in the hearts of those he has the privilege to talk to about Washington.
He said he wants children to understand that our forefathers where real people who did great things even though they had human frailties like anyone of us, and if these people could do it, so could they.
"In the more than 120 books I have read on the life of this man I have learned he was in fact intellectually towering in his gifts, a near-genius at farming, inflexible in integrity, a brilliant strategist, a reluctant officer holder, a kind and gracious host, deeply devout, and loved by children."
Dolzer has formed an organization called Liberty's Journey, whose mission statement reads: "To breathe life into the cold stone monuments to our heroes of the past, make them live again in the hearts of young and old, that the promises made and the Journey of Liberty will continue."
Their values in the group include integrity, honor, sacrifice, love of country, and faith in self, country, fellow man and in God.
Dolzer is deeply patriotic and said he is trying to build a consistent organization, that with corporate sponsorship and grants, will be able to visit schools, sans cost, even making some money for them through the fundraisers.
He said reads 5-7 books weekly, speaks five languages, loves and performs voice work on videos with his rich and deep vocals, has appeared in commercials, and has performed before a camera.
"Portraying George Washington is my passion and my way to keep his legacy in the forefront. The kinship I share with him has been an inspiration for me that has developed into a career that allows me to carry his message, honesty and integrity onto those who will listen."
Dolzer can be reached at 801-425-6717 or email@example.com.