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Remembering Mrs. Roosevelt

July 2024
21min read

An Intimate Memoir

My husband, David Gurewitsch, was the personal physician of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt from the White House years until her death in 1962. On a 1947 flight to Switzerland, when Mrs. Roosevelt was en route to Geneva as chairman of the United States Commission on Human Rights and Dr. Gurewitsch was going as a patient to a tuberculosis sanitarium in Davos, the professional relationship between doctor and patient changed into a unique friendship. Fog and engine trouble caused days of delay in Newfoundland and Shannon. This gave them secluded time in which to learn about each other and was the start of exchanges of confidence, advice, and mutual trust upon which each grew to depend. Mrs. Roosevelt later referred to her friendship with David as “more meaningful than I have ever had” Her almost daily letters to him during his year in Switzerland began an exceptional correspondence. They had much in common. No matter how well they traversed the prescribed routes of life, each, for different reasons, felt outside the mainstream. Both were essentially lonely, highly intuitive, brilliant, and motivated by public service, and both had wide interests .

David used his vacation time to travel abroad with Mrs. Roosevelt. Accompanied by Mrs. Roosevelt’s secretary, Maureen Corr, they studied social, medical, and political conditions in distant lands. They occasionally were joined by Mrs. Roosevelt’s grandchildren and by David’s daughter, Crania. After our marriage, we three often traveled together .

I met Mrs. Roosevelt for the first time on October 11, 1956. David, to whom I recently had been introduced, brought her to an evening art preview that I had helped to arrange. They had come from the theater. It was Mrs. Roosevelt’s birthday. They looked very distinguished, Mrs. Roosevelt in a long evening dress topped by an embroidered Japanese coat, and David, tall, graceful, very handsome, a small yellow rose in his lapel .

A year after David and I were married, the three of us bought and shared a small house on East Seventy-fourth Street in New York, keeping separate apartments. This worked out extraordinarily well. Mrs. Roosevelt’s children felt comfortable that her doctor was close by if needed. Privacy was respected. Mrs. Roosevelt took great care that I was not given the feeling that I was a newcomer in an established relationship. David and I had our regular guest room in her Hyde Park cottage .

The whole picture of this extraordinary woman can emerge only if there is an accurate knowledge of the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and David Gurewitsch, the period which began when she was sixty-three and he forty-five—the last fifteen years of her life .

It is not unusual for a vigorous older woman to be attracted to a younger, handsome man. It made her feel alive, womanly. She could love this man because he could be trusted to keep within the bounds of an idealized love. It was idealistic on both sides, though David’s did not include romantic fantasy. (Mrs. Roosevelt inscribed a photograph of herself as a young woman “To David, From a Girl He Never Knew.”) She could express her feelings freely because she knew the setting was safe. She said in a letter that although she never forgot the difference in their ages, she would like David to call her by her first name. He could not, and always spoke and referred to her as “Mrs. Roosevelt.”

The late Miss Esther Everett Lape, one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s dearest and most respected friends, wrote David in 1971: ”… You were dearer to her, as she not infrequently said, than anyone eke in the world. Yes, she not only loved you, she was in love with you. You loved her and were not in love with her. But this is the story of a truly great love that confers nothing but honor upon you and upon her. Yes, she was a lonely ‘unfulfilled’ woman. But not unfulfilled in the derogatory sense that use of the word usually carries. I am impressed by how frequently her belief in your work appears, forming a basic substructure in her love for you. The truth of this is, to me, very important. …”

Mrs. Roosevelt accepted David totally, and her acceptance, once given, was never withdrawn. What he called her “rocklike strength” meant a good deal to one whose early years were rootless. Her advice on his private and professional concerns was invaluable to him. On her part, she needed his devotion. She trusted him. She had implicit faith in his medical care of herself and members of her family. In this platonic, guilt-free love, each answered the other’s needs on different levels .

Only after my husband died in 1974 did I take the time to read the hundreds of letters Mrs. Roosevelt wrote to him. My own loss helped me to understand in retrospect the fullness of Mrs. Roosevelt’s capacity to love, and the kind of love she had for David. As my husband wrote in 1962, ”… stories about her can possibly give … insight into a most complicated and strong personality whose stature, I feel, has still not adequately been measured. I believe that history will judge her greatness higher than do her contemporaries. The more which is known of her, the more accurate will be an appraisal.”

I hope that the everyday stories that follow contribute somewhat to the whole picture of Mrs. Roosevelt. They have little to do with the famous public-functioning figure .

(The following questions and answers are drawn from talks between Mrs. Gurewitsch and the editor of this magazine and from other interviews conducted by Emily Williams of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York.)

How did Mrs. Roosevelt react when she learned that M. M. you and Dr. Gurewitsch planned to marry?

David told me he had discussed his wish to marry me with Mrs. Roosevelt and she had encouraged him. Nevertheless, according to Maureen, who was with Mrs. Roosevelt when she received David’s telegram telling her the date had been set, she grew pale. Mrs. Roosevelt replied by offering to give us our wedding, and we accepted. She told David she would be in California around the time of our wedding date, but that if she could not get back to New York in time, we were not to worry. Everything would be arranged. We were to have a religious service in Mrs. Roosevelt’s Sixty-second Street apartment, followed by a small luncheon.

Of course she was there. She met us at the door. She was very pale. She stood with a small leather box in her hand and said to me, “This is a necklace for you. It is not valuable, but it is something that has always been close to me. ”

The wedding could not have been easy for her. I believe she thought she would lose him. She needn’t have worried. I loved her, and he respected their confidences. The relationship changed but remained close differently.

How often did you see Mrs. Roosevelt once you were all living together in the house on East Seventy-fourth Street?

Almost daily when she was in town. She telephoned David every morning at eight when she was at home and often at night on her return. We dined together before going to the theater, opera, or concerts, usually downstairs in Mrs. Roosevelt’s apartment. David came home from his office around 8:00 P.M., and so we would have to eat fast and run. Mrs. Roosevelt served many courses. In those days the curtain went up at 8:40 and we arrived barely in time. We were too breathless to really enjoy the first part of anything.

So on one such evening when I was downstairs before David arrived, I asked Mrs. Roosevelt, “Do you think that sometime we will not rush out to any place? Couldn’t we just have dinner and stay at home at times?” She had gotten up to give me a Dubonnet, and coming very close to me, she said, “Do you mean, dear, you think you wouldn’t be bored?” Only then did it occur to me that many of Mrs. Roosevelt’s theater and concert invitations were due to the fact that she was afraid she would bore us. Because I was so taken aback by her question, I tried to make light of it and facetiously said, “Let’s try it and see.” To my further consternation, she took me seriously.

The truly wonderful evenings then began for me. Meals were leisurely and filled with interesting talk. There were medical consultations with David on behalf of others. After dinner Mrs. Roosevelt would take out her petit point or knitting. She would recall, for example, how she had sat frozen, wrapped in a blanket in the bomb bay of a plane going to Guadalcanal, typing out her “My Day” column with one finger. She spoke of how awkward she always felt when she arrived at a military base. News had gone out that a woman was arriving. For security reasons it couldn’t be told that it was the President’s wife. Mrs. Roosevelt was sure they were expecting a Hollywood beauty. She said she felt she was such a disappointment. More than twenty years later, when she and I would be walking in New York, taxi drivers would come up alongside and shout, “Hello, Mrs. Roosevelt. Do you remember me? I was in that hospital you visited in the Philippines during the war.” And she would wave and smile, “Oh, yes, yes. How-dy-do?” She would then say to me, “How could I remember him? On that trip I visited nineteen thousand men, all wearing white. ” But they remembered her.


How was she able to accomplish so much?

Dedication, determination, and truly phenomenal organization. Her possessions were so superbly organized that she could call Hyde Park from New York and say, “I want a pair of my white leather gloves sent down, which are second in the third drawer on the left in my bedroom dresser.”

On the morning she moved into the Seventy-fourth Street house, I went down to her apartment to find Mrs. Roosevelt, Maureen, the moving men, and an actor friend, Charles Purcell. Mrs. Roosevelt often gave Charles odd jobs to do for her to help him earn extra money between stage roles. He had been asked to arrange the library—to index books as they were being unpacked. Never before have I seen anyone move into a new apartment and have books catalogued as they were put on shelves. Carpets were laid, furniture put into immediate order. She had thought out all details in advance. Mrs. Roosevelt presided over it all wearing an elegant velvet Sally Victor hat. She had even arranged to have lunch sent over for her staff from the Park Sheraton Hotel.

On a summer Sunday evening some New York State Democratic party committeemen were coming to Hyde Park and hoped to stay the night. I think Mrs. Roosevelt could sleep seventeen in her cottage, but this time she found she had just two unoccupied beds in one room. Four committeemen arrived at dinnertime. We all inwardly winced. Mrs. Roosevelt solved the problem without a second’s hesitation: “Which two of you gentlemen are staying the night?” she asked. She had a way of moving guests along, too. She would say, “So-and-so, you’re going the same direction as so-and-so. Would you be good enough to see her out the door?” Time wasn’t wasted and nobody was offended.

Yet she managed to be gracious to everyone whom she met .

Extraordinarily gracious. Her definition of courtesy was sensitivity to others. The trouble she went to for her guests went beyond what good hostesses do. She cut and arranged the flowers herself for her guests’ rooms at Hyde Park. She placed certain books and fruit or candy in their rooms to suit their tastes. You left after a summer weekend with flowers in the trunk of your car wrapped in dampened paper to keep them fresh, vegetables from the garden, jars of cooked rhubarb.

I remember a crowded U.S. Embassy reception in Moscow during our 1958 visit to the U.S.S.R. My husband was eagerly speaking in Russian to the invited Soviet physicians and scientists. Mrs. Roosevelt was surrounded by Americans and others surprised and delighted to see her. If I happened to be standing alone for a moment, or if I appeared to her not entirely at ease, she was immediately by my side. When she saw I was interestingly engaged, she vanished. All subtle. All caring. Typical of her. It’s a very maternal thing to be so giving.

It seems odd that she adopted such a maternal attitude. Her own mother had paid so little attention to her.

I once talked to a psychiatrist friend about her. He said that if a person has been essentially motherless, the one thing she craves in her life, the most wonderful thing to her, is to have a mother. And so when she gets a chance, she can go one of two ways. She will either become a bitter and rejecting person, or she herself can become the giving, loving “mother” for whom she had longed.

One of the things that comes through is that with all her kindness and caring, she was also very strong.

She had to learn to be strong. She willed it. And she had an extraordinary range of inner resources. She was utterly realistic. People who are as sensitive and tender as she was either give up and are demolished, or they decide to survive. She survived. She said to me that “obstacles are given us in life to grow strong on,” and I said, “Well, not everybody grows strong. Some people fall down.” “You’re not allowed to fall,” she said firmly. “You keep going.”

Mrs. Roosevelt decided rather early not to let criticism bother her too much. In fact, she used to say that if you made a mistake, and those who loved you understood your actions, the rest didn’t matter. It must have been hard to take gossip and rumors about her family, her children. She did grow stronger on obstacles. She felt things passionately, was deeply hurt and outraged at times, especially if any of her children were harmed. But she learned how to handle situations, how to use restraint. She understood human behavior; she could put herself into your skin.

Purpose and work were fundamental to her strength. The pages of her engagement books are awesomely crowded with activities. After she returned home at night, or guests were gone, or at the end of a long day on the road, she started another round of work at eleven-thirty and stayed at her desk till two, three, even four in the morning. She never needed a sleeping pill. She went to bed when she could no longer keep her eyes open, when the work was done. She was up at seven every morning.

Did she ever take a vacation?

Only twice that I know of. We went to Tucson directly from Washington for a rest after Kennedy’s Inauguration. We stayed at the Tucson Inn. It was very peaceful there. We played croquet. Mrs. Roosevelt always won. She played to win, but then was sorry to beat us. The hotel was filled, but to our surprise there were only the three of us in the large television room watching Kennedy’s first press conference. I recall Mrs. Roosevelt was intensely interested in it and thought the President handled it well.

Earlier, in 1959, David and I and Mrs. Roosevelt went to the Dorado Beach Hotel in Puerto Rico for a nine-day vacation. At the last minute Mrs. Roosevelt almost didn’t come along. Maureen, usually the soul of discretion, telephoned me one morning and hesitantly said, “When you come to dinner tonight, Edna, Mrs. Roosevelt is all prepared to tell you that she’s decided against going. She needs the vacation, but she’s afraid she will be intruding on you and David.” While Mrs. Roosevelt and I were having a Dubonnet and waiting for David to come home, I said to her, “Mrs. Roosevelt, I’m so glad you’re going to Puerto Rico with us.” She looked at me. I continued: “You know David is a difficult person to take away for a rest. He always has to be doing or exploring something, and if you are there, you will help me keep him interested.” She never said a word, and with the thought that she could be useful, she went. While we were there, she told me it was the “first time I’ve never done anything, never had to be responsible for meeting trains, planning meals, driving, seeing people—my first real vacation. ” She was seventy-five at the time.

During our stay she read Arthur Schlesinger’s third book on the New Deal; she’d never had time to read it before. She was reading it and chuckling and chuckling. Every once in a while she would jump up from her seat and stamp on the grass because I was scared stiff of all the lizards. We would be reading, but her eyes were always watching that no lizards came near me. And she would say, “Go away, you naughty lizard. Don’t you know this lady doesn’t like you?” And she kept reading the book. Then she said to me, “I find this very interesting because I remember that when I would be concerned about Coughlinites and Huey Long and others threatening the country, Franklin would laugh it off. He’d say, ‘Don’t put too much importance on it.’ If I had read this book then, I wouldn’t have let him laugh me out of my concerns.”

Another time we were watching David trying to cross a stream, balancing himself on a rail. She said to me, “Look at David. Remember, Edna, the nicest men in the world are those who always keep something of the boy in them. Franklin was like that.”

Did she speak often of FDR?

No. Not to me. Almost never. Occasionally his name would come up in oblique ways. John Kennedy visited Mrs. Roosevelt in Hyde Park in August of 1960. Afterward I drove with him in Mrs. Roosevelt’s car to the FDR gravesite, where he was to give a speech. As we rode along, he took a comb from his pocket and rapidly combed his hair. Mrs. Roosevelt was not with us and later I described this to her, thinking his concern with his hair rather odd. Mrs. Roosevelt explained that as a presidential candidate, Mr. Kennedy did not want to have a tousled, boyish look. She then gently added, “I always carried Franklin’s comb for him.” But she had told David a good deal about FDR.

That’s interesting. The standard version has always been it was only after her husband got polio and she learned how to be his eyes and ears that she had a real career.

Her husband’s illness was undoubtedly an incentive for her to learn to be of more help. But she had started out early in life to have interests of her own, and she came from a family with a tradition of service. Her pride in her husband’s achievements and her contributions are well known. She learned a good deal from him, including how to put power to good use. But her real career developed out of her deep need to be needed.

Why did she do so much then?

Mrs. Roosevelt was utterly committed to the improvement of the human condition. Also, conscious of the fact that she was born privileged, she believed that service was her duty. But it was the degree of her work, and the passion and wisdom that she brought to it that set her apart. Mrs. Roosevelt worked because she had to. It fulfilled her. She coped with loneliness by devoting herself to others. She depended upon contact with people.


As her physician, my husband frequently urged her to curtail her schedule. After these sessions with him, she would be “good” for a while, but it never lasted. On one occasion when he was particularly insistent that she cut down on her work, and she was growing irritable with his arguments, he finally said, “I worry about so many people in the course of a day. Do you want to add to my worries?” That remark made a big impression on her and calmed her down—for a time.

There was a big to-do when Khrushchev came to Hyde Park. I remember the Secret Service wanted to have some trees on the property cut down as a safety precaution. Mrs. Roosevelt was indignant and told them that they had managed to guard her husband among those trees, and they could do the same for Khrushchev. Among the invited guests was Mr. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., President Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury. The young state troopers had never heard of him, and in the tight security he was mistakenly kept out of the FDR Library during the tour. But even in all the tumult of her children, grandchildren, friends, reporters, FBI men, State Department people, the Khrushchevs, and their entourage, Mrs. Roosevelt noticed that Mr. Morgenthau was not around. Word came back from her, “Find Mr. Morgenthau.” And he was found and escorted inside. That evening after dinner in Mrs. Roosevelt’s cottage after the VIPs and crowds had gone, Mr. Morgenthau started to rise from his chair in Mrs. Roosevelt’s study, exclaiming, “Eleanor, nobody knew who I was today.” She replied firmly, “Henry, sit down! Do you think that if I stopped working for six months anyone would remember me?”

Sometimes in a public place people would come up to Mrs. Roosevelt and say the most poignant things. They would speak of their gratitude for something, or tell how their lives had been touched and changed through her efforts. She would simply smile and say, “Thank you very much,” while moving on. At first I thought her replies were oddly superficial. I thought it was because, being partly deaf, she couldn’t hear what was being said. But I don’t believe that now. I believe that past successes no longer interested her. It was the new challenge that counted.

The public pictures her as eternally sweet-tempered. Could she get angry?

Yes. Very. On one of our overseas trips we traveled to Poland as part of a delegation of the World Federation of United Nations Associations. Sightseeing in Krakow, we entered an old castle that had a forbiddingly steep, long staircase. My husband took aside a member of the official party and quietly suggested that we all climb the stairs slowly. Mrs. Roosevelt was instantly suspicious as we began the slow ascent and asked the official, “Why are we going so slowly?” The poor man answered, “Because your doctor said we should.” With that, in a rage, she shook off everyone and ran up the stairs leaving the rest of us behind. It cost her a good deal of energy to do that. She stayed angry the whole morning.

Another time, Mrs. Roosevelt was invited to the house of a lady whom she didn’t especially care for. She was a very pretentious person, and Mrs. Roosevelt was irritated from the word go. I don’t know why she went. Perhaps the lady had contributed to some cause in which Mrs. Roosevelt was interested. It was a huge dinner table, and there were many, many servants, and out came a parade of delicious courses. Every time Mrs. Roosevelt was served, she said very firmly, “No, thank you.” And every time the hostess was a little more agitated: “Well, won’t you try a taste?” “No.” She wouldn’t have any of it. Would Mrs. Roosevelt like a sandwich? “No.” Some soup? Mrs. Roosevelt was getting more annoyed. And when she did that, you had to leave her alone. Finally, she gave in and took three green peas on a big plate.

Mrs. Roosevelt was very angry with the Tammany leader Carmine De Sapio, and never forgave him for deliberately sabatoging her son Franklin Jr. ‘s bid for state attorney general. At a Hyde Park New Year’s Eve dinner years later, after De Sapio had been defeated by the New York Reform Democrats of whom Mrs. Roosevelt was a leader, she said to Franklin with undisguised satisfaction, “I have heard that Mr. De Sapio is cross with me.”

Joseph Lash refers several times in his biography to her infrequent bouts of depression. Did you notice them?

I cannot judge their frequency, though I know she had them. Not wanting to upset any one around her and because of her strength of will, Mrs. Roosevelt was able to control her behavior. But when personal pressures mounted and she was with people with whom she felt she could be herself, her feelings could sink quite low. She tended to blame herself, especially when there was family trouble, saying that her life was no longer useful to anyone. Maureen, who worked so closely with her, recognized these difficult periods. So did David, and Mrs. Roosevelt confided her feelings to him. I know that before we were married, David would walk Mrs. Roosevelt’s dog with her at night. He told me that sometimes during those walks she was almost suicidal. He believed her openness with him on those occasions was partly due to her wish to be talked out of her depression. He could do that. They understood each other, and David was psychologically responsive to her.

We were together in our car once when she was feeling low. She had just found out that Maureen Corr’s brother-in-law was in the hospital and Maureen had been going to see him after work every night. Mrs. Roosevelt burst out, “Did Maureen not tell me of his illness because she thought I was too old to hear bad news?” There was a long silence. Slowly David answered, “She wouldn’t have told you,” he said, “even if you were forty.” As her calm returned, I thought to myself, “That must have been the right number!”

Why did she surround herself with people?

Contact with people energized her. There was also a fear of being alone. I don’t think it came about when her husband died or when her children grew up, as it often does. I think the loneliness in Mrs. Roosevelt’s case came from early childhood and was part of her personality, her make-up, and she was very dependent on those whom she loved to fill the gap in her loneliness. I think her work habits helped, too. She once wrote to my husband, “I’m not busy enough”—she had just arrived in Paris and was working for the United Nations—”and I don’t sleep well.” Also, she had a zest for living and was happy in her large gatherings of family and friends. One Christmas at breakfast at Hyde Park a greeting-card envelope was brought in to her with no last name or address. It simply read, “Mrs. Eleanor.” But the card had reached her. We all laughed. I told her that we now had evidence she was famous.

I don’t remember her having had a night off. She made sure there was something to do, someone to see, and if she found that something was canceled, she’d call us and we’d get together for dinner. Even when we traveled, she depended on the mail from home. You’d have thought she’d have been happy to be free of all those hundreds of letters for a few days.

For example, a stranger once wrote to her asking for some small amount of money. It was the end of the day, and Maureen was very tired. She asked, “Couldn’t we leave this letter for tomorrow morning?” Mrs. Roosevelt said, “Yes, of course.” Maureen left. Mrs. Roosevelt went right out to the mailbox here on Seventy-fourth and Madison after midnight to mail the needed check, because if someone needs money, he needs it now .

During her last years she was said to be a very close friend of Adlai Stevenson .

That has been exaggerated somewhat, I think. She liked and admired him very much. She supported him three times for the Presidency. She worked hard for him, but she was not patient with him when she thought he lacked assertiveness.


One night David and I were having dinner with him and Mrs. Roosevelt. And Stevenson said to Mrs. Roosevelt, “I’m meant to speak at such and such a town in New York State.” He named this tiny town, and he said, half scoffingly, “Did you ever hear of such a place? I’m sure only you have heard of such a place, Mrs. Roosevelt.” As she was serving, Mrs. Roosevelt said, “Oh, yes, I’ve heard of that town. There used to be a bus route,” and then she gave the bus route. “You could sometimes change at such and such a town if you didn’t take the morning bus. Now they have built an airport quite close, so there are flights which go—. ” Et cetera. Of course she would have known that town; she was an old campaigner. And of course she would have known how to get there; she remembered everything. She told me once about going as a member of the New York State [Democratic] Women’s Committee to track down a committeeman who was dodging her. He didn’t answer the phone. So she drove in her little car to his farmhouse and rang the bell. The wife came out, saw Mrs. Roosevelt, and said, “Just a minute.” Then she said, “My husband isn’t in.” Mrs. Roosevelt politely asked, “Do you mind if I wait?” and sat down on a rocker on the porch. “Without waiting for an answer,” she told me, “I took out my knitting. I knitted for two hours before he came out of the house.”

To return to Mr. Stevenson—Mrs. Roosevelt telephoned me one afternoon and said, “Adlai just called. He wants to see me this evening. He is leaving on a trip to Latin America and says he wishes to consult me about conditions there. But I know he’s really coming in the hope that I will persuade him to run for President. (This was before the 1960 campaign.) I will not persuade him. I believe that anyone who needs to be urged should not run. Could you and David come down at eight o’clock? With you here, the subject of the Presidency won’t come up.” I told her I didn’t think we could because David returned from his office too hungry to wait for dinner. Mrs. Roosevelt said, “I will have a plate of sandwiches for him; it won’t take long, and you can go straight up afterwards.” Mr. Stevenson had gained considerable weight around that time. Every time I passed that plate of sandwiches around, he took one, and David refused one. This continued. The visit soon ended. Mrs. Roosevelt opened the door to show Mr. Stevenson out. David and I were standing behind her in the doorway. There, lying drunk on the floor, was our house painter. After we had hired him, we learned he was an alcoholic, but we still kept him on. David leaned over to take care of him. Mr. Stevenson turned his wide blue eyes to me and said, “What’s that!” Mrs. Roosevelt efficiently took him by the elbow, both of them stepping over the house painter. She escorted Mr. Stevenson to the elevator. My last impression of that visit was the surprised expression on the face of Adlai Stevenson as the automatic elevator door slowly closed.

Did she have much of a sense of humor?

She enjoyed humor and loved to laugh. But she never made a joke—at least as far as I know. She didn’t mind a joke on her. She was a good sport. I remember coming home one late afternoon and finding that a car had just deposited Mrs. Roosevelt in front of our house. She was shaking hands with two unknown men, saying, “Thank you very much.” As we entered the house together she said to me, “I am sorry I couldn’t introduce you, dear. I didn’t know their names. We were at LaGuardia Airport. The gentlemen saw me looking for a taxi and asked to drive me. They insisted I would not be taking them out of their way. ” With a very serious face, I said, “Do you mean that you let yourself get picked up by two strange men at the airport?” She looked at me for a second, not quite knowing how to respond. “Well,” I continued, “if you’re going to be doing that regularly, Mrs. Roosevelt, please don’t give them our address. Let them set you down at some other house on the street. Remember, we have to keep our reputation!” After a moment she laughed heartily.

In September, 1962, Mrs. Roosevelt was hospitalized M. for the illness from which she died two months later. In early October she implored the doctors to let her go home, and in mid-October they did so. What do you recall of those last days?

Mrs. Roosevelt called David from her hospital room quite late on the night before she was to return home. She did not want to come home by ambulance, she said, but in her own small car. He said that was impossible and persuaded her to accept an ambulette. It would be more comfortable than the car and still discreet. She finally agreed. David accompanied her. It was a sunny, autumn day, so beautiful that Mrs. Roosevelt asked to be driven twice through Central Park.

She hadn’t been at home an hour when Maureen called to say, “Mrs. Roosevelt invites you and David to dinner this evening. ” Knowing how ill she was, I could hardly believe my ears. David agreed to this with the understanding that the dinner would take no more than ten minutes, all courses to be served at one time. Mrs. Roosevelt was lying in a hospital bed in her large bedroom. She was very weak but so happy to be at home. A table for two was set beside the bed. Her first words to me were, “What news do you have of Crania?” (my stepdaughter who was abroad at the time). Mrs. Roosevelt was being social. Her cook was tenderly helping Mrs. Roosevelt with the meal. We all pretended for a few minutes that nothing had changed. After a very short time, David gave me a sign and I said goodnight. He remained. As I waited for the elevator, the apartment door still open, I heard Mrs. Roosevelt say to David, “Tell Edna this is my first night. I shall behave better tomorrow.”

Mrs. Roosevelt died a month after coming home. That evening her children were downstairs making funeral arrangements. It was dark when the hearse arrived. David was to ride with her for the last time. I heard the hearse door slam as it slowly pulled away from the house. I watched from an upstairs window. The long black car stopped at the corner for a red light. I remember thinking how strange it was that traffic lights were still functioning.


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