There are so many poignant stories that aren’t mainstream, reminding us that we all possess humanity in one way or another.
I’d like to share eight tender tales of lore, five about U.S. Presidents.
Theodore Roosevelt wore a ring with a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair, John Hay, Lincoln’s Secretary, who became Teddy’s Secretary of State, had given him to wear at his Second Inauguration on May 4th, 1905. Hay, twenty years TR’s senior, died shortly after, so Teddy, with great reverence, still wore the ring until he died in 1919.
Andrew Jackson was a recent widower when he took his Oath of Office in 1829, his beloved wife Rachel dying of heart failure a few months earlier. He held her missal in his hands, while a weeper, a black strip of crepe, circled the brim of his hat in mourning for her.
Bobby Kennedy, never getting over the loss of his brother Jack, always wore his overcoat that was much too big for him. He also wore the PT 109 Tie Clip Jack had given him. When an ardent fan tried grabbing it while he was running for the Presidential Nomination in 1968, he said, “Please don’t take that…my brother gave it to me.”
When John F. Kennedy died in November, 1963, there was a consensus that his casket, lying in state, should be left open.
Jacqueline Kennedy did not want her husband’s remains looked upon, leaving the decision to Bobby, who went to the Capitol before it was opened to the public. Bobby silently looked down at his brother, then sat by the coffin and wept.
It was kept closed.
The millionaire, John Jacob Astor, who died on the Titanic, April 15th, 1912, when found identified by his initials, still had his pocket watch attached to his blue serge suit. Vincent, his eldest son, in homage to his father, wore it for the rest of his life.
Fala, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous Scottish Terrier, was a gift from FDR’s cousin, Margaret (Daisy) Suckley. When he suddenly died in Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12th, 1945, Daisy who was present, assuming his wife Eleanor wouldn’t want her, took Fala home.
Eleanor, however, made Daisy bring Fala back, living together happily until Fala died at 12, in 1952, seven years after her beloved master.
Eleanor buried Fala at Springwood, their home in Hyde Park, next to Chief, the Roosevelt’s German Shepard, by the sundial across from Franklin in the rose garden.
When Thomas Jefferson, now a widower, lived in Paris from 1784-1789 as our Minister to France, he took Sally Hemings with him to look after two of his children. Sally, probably the most famous slave in U.S. history, was a free soul in France and could have stayed there, but chose to go back home to Virginia with the man who legally owned her there, making me think, though despite unseemly circumstances, there was a great love between them.
The Marquis de Lafayette, one of our most loved heroes of the Revolutionary War, in 1829, came back to America for a final farewell. After Lafayette laid the corner stone at Bunker Hill, where on June 17th, 1775, the first battle in the War of Independence was fought, we presented him with a trowel of earth to take home to France commemorating the day.
When he died on May 20th, 1834 at the age of 77, his son, George Washington Lafayette, tossed the dirt over his father’s casket as they lowered it, tearfully declaring…
That might be my favorite.