The Pittsburgh Press (September 8, 1941)
ROOSEVELT’S MOTHER DIES
World’s great and humble send condolences
By Sandor S. Klein, United Press staff writer
Hyde Park, NY, Sept. 8 –
An American flag fluttering at half-staff from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library symbolized today the grief of the President and his family over the death of his mother, Mrs. Sara Delano Roosevelt.
Mrs. Roosevelt, 86, one of three women who have lived long enough to see their sons become President of the United States, died yesterday as a result of a collapse of her circulatory system brought about by old age.
Death came in a bedroom of the ancestral Roosevelt estate here with her son and her daughter-in-law Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt at her bedside.
Funeral services, which will be private, will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow from the home and she will be buried at the side of her husband, James Roosevelt who died in 1900, in the family plot in the yard of St. James’ Episcopal Church here.
Only members of the family and intimates will attend and friends and the public were specifically requested not to send flowers.
Married in 1880
Thousands of messages of condolences were arriving at the temporary White House offices in Poughkeepsie and the White House in Washington. They came from the world’s great who, since 1933, when her son became President, have known “the Grand Old Lady of Hyde Park” as both an impeccable aristocrat and a proud mother, and from simple folk to whom she symbolized the maternal virtues.
The home in which she died was the home to which she came in October 1880 at the age of 26, as the bride of James Roosevelt who was 26 years older than her. There her only child, Franklin, was born. It was the scene of his childhood.
From there, she watched his first essays into politics of which she didn’t altogether approve and there she watched over him while he fought back from the affliction of infantile paralysis.
And there, in her last years, she reigned as a gracious hostess over a semi-official White House, entertaining such distinguished guests of her son as the King and Queen of Great Britain, the Crown Princess of the Netherlands, the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, the Duke of Kent, and lesser international celebrities, to say nothing of various governmental and political associates of her son.
Main interest was family
But her chief interests remained in her family – her son, his wife, their children and grandchildren. Three of her grandchildren, James, Elliott and John, arrived yesterday afternoon soon after they had been advised of her death.
The other two, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. and Mrs. Anna Roosevelt Boettiger, were not expected to be able to attend her funeral. Franklin Jr. is an ensign in the Naval Reserve and is on duty “somewhere at sea,” and Mrs. Boettiger is in Seattle, Wash., where her husband is a newspaper publisher.
The flag at Hyde Park House, the manor house of the Roosevelt estate, remained at full staff to signify that the President of the United States was in residence, but that at the library, which is on the estate, was half-staffed and the library will be closed Tuesday, the day of the funeral. It is customarily closed on Monday.
Just back from vacation
Mrs. Roosevelt returned from a vacation in the family summer home at Campobello, New Brunswick, last Friday. She complained of being tired, but that was thought only natural in view of the journey and her age.
The President left Washington Friday night, telling reporters that he was coming here mainly to see his mother, whom he adored, because he hadn’t seen her all summer. Late Saturday evening, her condition became alarming and about midnight she lost consciousness and remain unconscious until she died at 12:15 p.m. yesterday.
Sara Delano was born Sept. 21, 1854, the seventh of 11 children of Warren and Catherine Delano, on the Delano family estate, Algona, near Newburgh, NY. Like the Roosevelts, their neighbors, the Delanos had belonged to the landed gentry of the Hudson River Valley for generations.
Went to China
At the age of 8, her father went to China to recoup his fortunes which had suffered reverses in the Panic of 1857, and she and her mother rounded Cape Horn in a clipper ship in a voyage to Hong Kong that took four months.
There she formed her love for the sea which was inherited by her son. She returned through Europe and always recalled that in Paris, she met the Empress Eugénie.
She spent 20 sheltered years as the wife of James Roosevelt but upon his death when her son was in his teens, she became the efficient manager of the Roosevelt family estates, a role that continued hers until her son had finished his education at Harvard, entered into law practice, and began his political career. Franklin was born to her 13 months after her marriage – on Jan. 30, 1882.
Had tremendous energy
She never had a public life until her son became President, but she entered upon one with the grave, unruffled dignity appropriate to her aristocratic breeding. Enjoying exceptional health, almost to her very last day, she was a person of tremendous energy.
Though not a feminist, she was interested in maternity welfare, in hospitals, and in the balls given annually on her son’s birthday to raise funds to fight infantile paralysis.
In these latter years, she often came in contact with admirers of her son who invariably asked her if she wasn’t proud to have a son who had become President of the United States.
She would reply:
I’ve always been proud of him.
Her emphasis was on the “always.”
Her death caused Mr. Roosevelt to postpone until 10 p.m. Thursday a speech he had been scheduled to deliver to the nation and world tonight on matters of “major importance.”
First announcement of Mrs. Roosevelt’s passing came from White House Secretary William D. Hassett who drove, at high speed from the Hyde Park estate to inform reporters assembled at the Nelson house in Poughkeepsie.
The reporters had previously been told to be present for an important announcement.
Shortly after Mr. Hassett’s informal announcement, the following statement was issued by the White House:
Mrs. James Roosevelt, mother of the President, died at her home in Hyde Park at 12:15 p.m. ET today.
Dr. Scott L. Smith, the family physician, made the following statement:
For the 12 hours preceding her death, Mrs. Roosevelt had been unconscious following an acute circulatory collapse, due principally to her advanced age. The first intimation of this occurred during Friday night but did not become alarming until late Saturday morning.
The President and the First Lady held an all-night vigil at his mother’s bedside and were with her when she died.
Mrs. Roosevelt’s only surviving sister, Mrs. Price Collier of Tuxedo Park, NY, visited her Saturday afternoon. Her brother, Frederic A. Delano, chairman of the Natural Resources Board and who bears a striking resemblance to the President, arrived at Hyde Park yesterday morning.