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Elburn couple brings history to life

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 5:31 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Historical re-enactors Karen and Michael Colweck stand in their Roman armor at their Elburn home. Karen and Michael appear at schools and weddings as part of their Strength and Honor program.

ELBURN – Shields, armor and weapons sit neatly organized throughout the Elburn home of Mike and Karen Colweck.

The growing array of equipment allows the Colwecks to do more than merely portray ancient warriors in their historical re-enactments.

The Colwecks’ collection is extensive, and what started as the pursuit of an interest has grown to the point where they have created names and a history for the characters they become when they are at a function.

Mike Colweck said the process is important, and he insists on authenticity.

“Everything is real,” he said.

Mike and Karen Colweck combine to form Strength and Honor. They have been together for 26 years, and they have studied ancient warfare and tactics for more than 10 years. Over the past few years, they have worked together to put on performances at special events – school assemblies, graduations, weddings and parties.

Their heavy equipment – they’ll let you hold it so you can experience it for yourself – has to be worn and held for hours at a time.

They work out regularly so they can handle such a task, and they also want to achieve the look of warriors.

When it’s warm, they’ll sweat so much in their equipment that they’ve lost five or six pounds at one function. When it’s cold, they will be more aware that their legs are exposed.

It’s all a part of the authentic experience.

The endeavor started when Mike Colweck said he wanted a set of Spartan armor. He had been interested in history, and was thrilled that his wife embraced the idea.

The key to the journey, he said, is that Karen is part of it.

And he said it has been educational. He explains to groups that there were female warriors. And, Karen said, young girls are thrilled to see her when she’s in her outfit.

Mike Colweck is a commodities trader, and he said his workday is complete early enough to allow him to hit the gym for training. Karen has a background as an athlete and a teacher, and trains at the gym as well. 

They have spent thousands of dollars acquiring the necessary items, and many of the items are custom made.

“It’s our hobby, but it’s also an escape,” Mike Colweck said. “It makes me feel like a different man. It’s a very exciting feeling. My heart races, and I don’t want to get out of [the armor].”

Their website – www.mikecolweck.com – explains the characters they might portray. 

As Athenians, Mike Colweck is Tannos, a foot soldier who “knows nothing but this type of life.” Karen is Lara. “By the time she was 21, not a man in Athens could rival her ability,” the site reads.

As Macedonians, they are Casander and Alexandra, he a first-class officer born to a wealthy family, and she a great fighter, born to royalty.

As Romans, he is Marcus Antonius, a first-class centurion. She is Diana Palatina, an ex-slave trained to fight as a gladiatrix.

As Spartans, he is Astinos, a warrior considered unbeatable in battle. She is Lysandra, born to an upper-class Spartan family.

As they point out their outfits, they call them by name.

Mike Colweck said he enjoys portraying such characters because he respects their place in history, and also he marvels at the armor, which he calls artwork. 

“These are heroes, people who changed the world we live in,” he said.

One of their favorite appearances was at a comic convention.

In a place where many were in costume, they said, their authenticity stood out.

“It was like being on a Hollywood red carpet. … We walked in and everybody asked for pictures,” said Mike Colweck, who said it started out as 10 requests and quickly went to more than 70. “We felt like celebrities.”

Karen Colweck enjoys such moments.

“What’s the point of having it if you’re not going to use it to please other people?” she said.

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