09 Aug ANNA ROOSEVELT. CAREGIVER OF FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, HER FATHER I
DID HER INTERVENTION PROLONG FDR’S LIFE THROUGH D DAY, THE 1944 PRESIDNTIAL ELECTION, AND THE YALTA CONFERENCE?
Anna Roosevelt Boettiger, President Franklin, and First Lady Eleanor, Roosevelt’s oldest child and only daughter, visited the White House over the 1943-44 Christmas/New Year holiday. During her four week stay, FDR quickly realized how much he enjoyed his daughter’s companionship. Anna, in turn, rediscovered her father. She told him risqué tales of the sexual exploits of two of her brothers; together they shared silly stories as FDR and Missy LeHand had done previously. (1)
Daisy Suckley’s diary entry for January1,1944 described the father-daughter relationship:
“Anna is exuberant & very youthful & full of fun — Quite a wonderful person….She dresses very well & very attractively. Her father loves having her around.” (2) Consequently the lonely president urged Anna to move to the White House with her two young children from her Seattle home. She acceded and became FDR’s constant companion for the duration of his presidency.
The physician for the Roosevelt White House was Vice Admiral Ross McIntire. He was appointed to the prestigious position on the recommendation of President Woodrow Wilson’s White House Physician, Rear Admiral Cary Grayson. Roosevelt generously rewarded his doctor by rapid promotions in rank from Lieutenant Commander to Vice Admiral. A major factor in McIntire’s initial selection was his specialization in ear, nose and throat medicine. FDR’s major medical problem, other than polio, had been chronic sinus infections. The extent of the doctor’s medical knowledge beyond his specialty remains speculative.
By March 1944, Anna’s closeness to, and observational acuity, of her father led her to conclude that something was wrong. FDR had not recovered as quickly as usual from his annual winter ‘flu.’ The president appeared tired, was frequently unalert, and lacked his usual exuberant brio. Roosevelt’s executive secretary Grace Tully and his cousin Daisy Suckley concurred with Anna’s observations. Anna recalled: “There must have been times when the blood was not pumping in the way it should through one hundred percent of his body. I saw this with my own eyes, but I don’t think mother saw it.” Eleanor Roosevelt was unaware of any change in her husband’s medical condition. (3)
Anna Roosevelt confronted Doctor McIntire with her worries. He, from his elevated perch as a military flag officer and as a surgeon, initially discounted this woman’s apprehension. According to him, the president was ok. Finally, the daughter prevailed and Roosevelt was afforded both a complete physical examination and a cardiologist’s consultation at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
More to come……….
1. Joseph Persico, Franklin & Lucy (New York: Random House, 2009) 92.
2. Daisy Suckley, edited and annotated by Geoffrey C. Ward, Closest Companion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995) 267.
3. Steven Lomazow and Eric Fettman, FDR’s Deadly Secret (New York: Public Affairs. 2009) 98.