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Fathers Carry Olympic Flame on Father’s Day

June 16, 1996

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Fathers ran with the Olympic torch and fathers brought their children to watch on Sunday, Father’s Day, as the Olympic flame passed through Rhode Island’s capital before heading west into Connecticut on its journey toward the Summer Games in Atlanta.

``I like the Olympics and it just sounded fun,″ said 10-year-old Nathan Landes of Cranston, R.I., wearing a green Olympic baseball cap and a milk mustache. He was accompanied by his dad, Bob Landes.

``Oh, it was fun, it was great fun,″ said Lee Lechtenberg, 53, of Middleboro, Mass., who carried the torch into Kennedy Plaza.

He could not have done it without his 15-year-old son Dan, who had submitted his father’s name in a random drawing to carry the torch. Others might have submitted their own name, but Dan said he wanted his father to do it.

``He’s done a lot for me,″ said the student from Boston College High School.

``The greatest part was doing it together. Usually we’re out delivering papers at this hour,″ the elder Lechtenberg said as the morning light was hitting the plaza in front of City Hall.

Hundreds of spectators lined the square.

``It’s part of history. We didn’t want to miss it. I feel welled up right now,″ said salesman Walter Cronin of Providence.

The small state gave the torch relay a big welcome, delaying the relay runners by 45 minutes on Saturday night along its route from the border with North Attleboro, Mass., into Pawtucket, near the capital.

Thousands lined the streets of the border towns and tried to get close, slowing the entourage of vans and trucks accompanying the relay on its 51st day of the 84-day trip. Organizers said the flame would pass within a two-hour drive of more than 90 percent of the U.S. population.

``The crowds last night were absolutely phenomenal,″ said Susan McWhorter, deputy director of the torch relay for Coca-Cola.

``There were so many children. Hopefully, this will be something they remember.″

The last torchbearer on Saturday lit a cauldron at the Statehouse. Then, officers of the Georgia State Patrol lit a wick from the cauldron, touched it to a miner’s lantern, and carried the flame to the Holiday Inn for the night.

The first runner on Sunday was Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, whose mother was watching in the plaza with her grandsons.

``I’m very happy. I’m very proud of my son,″ said Enriqueta Rodriguez, who recalled that when he was 7 years old, he tagged along with torch bearers for the Pan America Games in their native Puerto Rico.

Now, Pablo Rodriguez’s own son, Pablo, 7, craned his neck to watch for his dad.

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