My Favorite Things: Roosevelt Edition

The Roosevelts contributed so much to the American way of life. Their story is worth knowing and celebrating. Understand their impact through the eyes of the Library’s dedicated supporters as they recount their favorite Roosevelt things.

Favorite memory or experience involving the Roosevelts of the Library:

One particular summer I decided to take my grandchildren to Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-kill home. At the time, my grandson was 7 and his sister was 10. As we stood in the living room at Val-kill at the edge of the oriental rug, my grandson asked me, “Nana, do you think Eleanor Roosevelt stood exactly where I’m standing?” I told him she must have because this was her living room and she probably walked everywhere. There was an amazed look on his face and then he looked at the end table within arms reach.

Although all participants on the tour were asked not to touch any of the furnishings, my grandson reached over and placed one finger on the table. He then looked at me and said, “Nana, do you think Eleanor Roosevelt touched this part of the table?” I said, “She must have, Jake.” He then said, “I’m never going to wash this hand!”

Ellen Danziger, a Library donor, wears glasses and a plaid shirt in front of a floral background

Ellen Danziger, a Library donor from Poughkeepsie, NY.

Favorite memory or experience involving the Roosevelts of the Library:

I grew up in Poughkeepsie in the shadow of Franklin Roosevelt. As a child, Hyde Park was a world away. I knew that something was important and special about Hyde Park. While others swooned over Elvis, I was interested in FDR.

When I began to date my now wife, in 1968, I let her know right off the bat that I was a history geek. One of our first day-dates was an afternoon spent in FDR’s Presidential Library & Museum, where I proudly showed my then-new girlfriend the original “Day of Infamy Speech.” Don’t forget, in those days the speech was on public display. That memory stays in my mind as my favorite.

Picture of Sal Assenza, a white man wearing a black polo shirt, sitting on a bench in a garden

Sal Assenza, a Library member and staffer from Hyde Park, NY.

Favorite member of the Roosevelt family or administration (other than Franklin or Eleanor):

Eleanor’s two granddaughters: Eleanor “Ellie” Roosevelt Seagraves, the first granddaughter (Ann’s child) often photographed at the FDR White House, was such a great help to me when I was doing research for my book on Val-Kill. We frequently emailed and talked on the phone and my husband and I had lunch with her and her daughter and husband in her home outside Washington DC; I met Nina Roosevelt Gibson (John’s daughter) and her husband when she came to speak in North Carolina and we share many interests. Ellie and Nina agree Eleanor was a “wonderful” grandmother and Val-Kill in summers with her were “paradise.” Grandmere also took them on overseas trips. All of these personal experiences helped inform my understanding of Mrs. Roosevelt beyond historic research.

Emily Herring Wilson, a white woman wearing a blue shirt, stands behind a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt at the FDR Library

Emily Herring Wilson, Library donor, presenter and author of The Three Graces of Val-Kill: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marion Dickerman, and Nancy Cook in the Place They Made Their Own from Winston Salem, NC.

Favorite member of the Roosevelt family or administration (other than Franklin or Eleanor):

Louis McHenry Howe is one of my favorite players in the Roosevelt administration. What makes him unique is he was a key figure in both Franklin and Eleanor’s lives. Individually they were ordinary people, together their accomplishments were extraordinary. When FDR and Howe met they just simply clicked. Howe planned Franklin’s first presidential campaign and Franklin won by a landslide. Eleanor soon realized Louis’ talent as a political strategist. Howe encouraged her to be a political and outspoken First Lady. He realized once FDR had polio, Eleanor could be his eyes and ears helping with the campaign. These three individuals were pieces of a puzzle that fit into a perfect political landscape. Howe believed he could make Eleanor Roosevelt the first woman president.

Favorite place to visit on the Library and Museum grounds (other than the museum or house):

I love walking the grounds. On the west side of the library in Freedom Court is a sculpture, entitled BreakFree, created by Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys. Edwina Sandys describes the sculpture as, “the physical embodiment of the Iron Curtain,” a term her grandfather coined. Actual panels of the Berlin Wall were used to create the sculpture.

Loru Morritt, a white woman wear a bright tshirt, poses kneeling in a garden

Lori Morritt, a Library member and volunteer at Val-Kill and the Library from Lagrangeville, NY.

Favorite place to visit on the Library and Museum grounds (other than the museum or house):

I like hiking with a friend on the trails that go from the gardens down toward the Hudson River, past the ice pond, where I understand FDR would swim with his kids. The woods are beautiful and serene with ringing bird songs, tall tree trunks, and the beaver dam and resulting bog now blocking the old path to the river perch. I like to imagine FDR connecting with nature in this same place 130 years ago.

Roger Kolp, a white man wearing a plaid button up, stands next to a sign at Hyde Park

Roger Kolp, a Library member, donor and docent from Hyde Park, NY.

Favorite thing in the Museum:

It is so difficult to choose a single favorite, but I love FDR’s oval office desk. I stop for 5 or 10 minutes every time I visit. Even more than in his home, I can feel his presence. I imagine him taking a cigarette from his cigarette case and lighting it with the ship wheel cigarette lighter as he answers his vintage telephone. How worn the desk chair is, with the seat collapsed in the center and the arms frayed. The donkeys and elephants of many shapes and materials on the desk show his great sense of humor. I, myself, covet the little black and white Scottie dog magnets!

The WAR! section is one of my favorite places in the museum. Like most boomers, my dad served in the Philippines and I grew up watching WWII movies, so I was always fascinated by Rosie the Riveter and Victory Gardens. So of course, I am drawn to everything WWII. But the real draw of this exhibit is that you can see the hard decisions being made, the challenges being faced one after the other, and the wearing down of a man. I always walk away thinking, thank goodness, this man was president and how much I wish we will one day have another great man lead us.

Merrilee Osterhoudt, a white woman, poses with a man wearing a "USA" hat standing next to an American flag

Merrilee Osterhoudt, a Library member from Poughkeepsie, NY.

Favorite memory or experience involving the Roosevelts of the Library:

It started in the second grade. That year, my birthday coincided with the weekly “Show & Tell.” I brought from home the R volume of our encyclopedia, stood up in front of the class, opened the book to Roosevelt, Franklin D, and explained to my classmates who he was and why I chose that date to “educate” them. The date was (still is) January 30th (we’ll leave off the year).

Some decades later, unless prevented by severe weather or work, my husband and I have made a tradition of going to Hyde Park for the Library and Museum’s annual birthday commemoration. For a couple of years, the ceremony was followed by an invitation to dinner at the nearby Culinary Institute’s American Bounty Restaurant. One year stands out in which Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin and Eleanor’s granddaughter, hosted the evening. Somehow she was told that the night also was my birthday. I was surprised with a petite birthday cake for dessert.

That’s not all.

Ms. Roosevelt led all the attendees in the Roosevelt family toast, followed by a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

My feet didn’t touch the ground for quite a while afterward.

Laurie Squire, a white woman poses with the a statue at the FDR Presidential Library.

Laurie Squire, a longtime Library member from Martinsville, NJ.

Favorite thing in the Museum:

The Larooco Logbook. I was privileged to see the original, with all its funny drawings, pictures, and the hand-entered entries by FDR, Missy LeHand, and others. FDR’s handwriting is so hard to read that I was thrilled a few years ago when Karen Chase issued an edited and annotated transcription, FDR on His Houseboat (State University of New York Press, 2016).

Favorite place to visit on the Library and Museum grounds (other than the museum or house):

I always enjoy the sculpture of FDR and Eleanor next to the Henry Wallace Center. I have been honored to be a speaker at several Roosevelt Reading Festivals and in the accompanying photo I “shared” my Missy LeHand Mystery book, co-authored with Kelly Durham, Eleanor Roosevelt Goes to Prison, with Mrs. Roosevelt. She seemed delighted!

Kathryn Smith sitting with Eleanor Roosevelt statue at the FDR Library holding the book "Eleanor Roosevelt Goes to Prison"

Kathryn Smith, biographer of Missy LeHand, FDR’s Private Secretary, Confidante and Friend, co-author of the Missy LeHand Mystery series, and a Library donor from Anderson, SC.

Favorite memory or experience involving the Roosevelts or the Library:

My mother’s parents nearly lost their home in Columbus, OH when her older brother fell ill and lingered, in and out of the hospital, for five years during the Great Depression. My grandparents chose to pay his medical bills, rather than mortgage payments. Their property went into foreclosure and was scheduled to be sold at sheriff’s auction in July 1935. At the last minute, through the intercession of their members of Congress, they were able to apply to FDR’s Homeowner’s Loan Corporation for relief. Their house was saved! Sadly, though, they lost their only son in June 1936, days shy of his 24th birthday.

My dad was the sixth born of nine children in a family who lived in rural Union County, OH. I somehow always understood that his folks were FDR fans, but when I finally asked Dad exactly why, I was amazed by his answer: “Because we got a new outhouse, thanks to Franklin Roosevelt (and one of his alphabet soups agencies)!” Who knew that a more sanitary, concrete block outdoor toilet would win that family over as lifelong Democrats?

Favorite thing in the Museum:

My favorite display in the Museum is in the ER section where the contents of her wallet are there for all to view. After her death on November 7, 1962, they found her driver’s license, assorted credit cards, a State of New York permit to purchase and possess a gun, as well as her United Nations press pass, her MOMA membership card and copies of some of her favorite poems and prayers — quite the collection of personal credentials and memorabilia of one of the most consequential women of the 20th century. Don’t miss this fascinating display!

Jeri Diehl-Cusack stands in front of the water.

Jeri Diehl-Cusack, M.L.S, a longtime Library member and National Council Member of The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership from Worthington, OH.

Favorite Roosevelt spot to visit aside from the Library:

Actually my favorite spot is the bridge and bench at Val-Kill. Sitting on that bench over the years I have been visited by everyone from chipmunks to a very inquisitive deer. With all the activities and sometimes chaos that those grounds have witnessed I wonder if Eleanor and her many guests, family, and staff ever had the time to experience that peace of mind that sitting by that stream or anywhere away from the cottage offers. Did Eleanor ever just stop and listen to the birds or watch the squirrels play tag over the willows?

Glenna Gladstone, a white woman with short white hair, stands in front of a silver car

Dr. Glenna Gladstone, a Library member from Valley Stream, NY.

Favorite memory or experience involving the Roosevelts or the Library:

One of the things I find so special about the Library, as compared to other venues where historians give lectures and talks, is that audience members often have a personal connection to the people or incidents discussed. For example, when Susan Quinn gave a talk about her book, Eleanor and Hick, some audience members were Hick’s Hyde Park neighbors and they told stories about their experiences with her. Or, if grandson David Roosevelt was in the audience, he would often add a comment which personalized the topic under discussion.

Judy Winzemer, a white woman wearing a grey sweater, standing in front of busts of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

Judy Winzemer, a longtime Library member and Museum docent from Staatsburg, NY.

Favorite place to visit on the Library and Museum grounds (other than the museum or house):

One favorite spot at the FDR Home and Library is the gift shop [New Deal Store]! I spend a lot of time in there buying gifts for family and friends. The buyer there certainly has a bead on the tastes of those who visit this shop!

Kathy Roe, wearing all black and a wide brim hat sitting on the beach and reading a book,

Kathy Roe, a longtime Library member from Rhinebeck, NY.

Favorite member of the Roosevelt family or administration (other than Franklin or Eleanor):

Frances Perkins. I admire all of her accomplishments. I like that she stayed Secretary of Labor through all of FDR’s presidential years. I enjoyed listening to her grandson [Tomlin Coggeshall] take part in the Library’s program, The New Deal Today: The Grandchildren Speak. I love the picture of Perkins and FDR having a great laugh together, and wonder what was so funny. They were a great team.

Favorite memory or experience involving the Roosevelts or the Library:

I enjoy being a docent and have so many experiences with interesting visitors to the Library. I think the most exciting experience was attending the Rededication of the Library, June 30, 2013. It was a beautiful, exciting day. I enjoyed all the speeches, met many of the authors I admire, and some Roosevelt family members. The new Library is fantastic and it was so exciting to help visitors find their way through it on the first official day it was open.

Nancy Chando, a white woman with blonde hair, sits on a bench with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt statues at the FDR Presidential Library

Nancy Chando, a Library member and docent, as well as our Docent Coordinator from Hurley, NY.

Favorite place to visit on the Library and Museum grounds (other than the museum or house):

I’m a baby boomer, and my parents were of the Greatest Generation—15 and 14 years old when FDR first took office, and 27 and 26 when he died. Together they lived through the Great Depression, and were married for less than 3 months when Pearl Harbor changed their lives. My father served in the Navy during World War II.
Growing up, I heard again and again how they loved and admired Franklin Roosevelt, who was like a beloved father figure to them, as he was to so many. They visited his home in Hyde Park many times over the years after his death.

It’s been a dozen years since my parents passed on, and I moved to Hyde Park just 7 years ago from Brooklyn Heights. They never knew that I would come to live so close to FDR’s home. But whenever I visit the Library and Museum grounds, I feel that they are with me, and that I am representing them when I visit FDR’s graveside, my favorite place on the grounds.

I stand for a long time at the grave in silent reflection. Several times I’ve attended and photographed the graveside ceremony on FDR’s birthday. As I shiver in the January cold, I’m nevertheless warmed by the presence of World War II veterans like my father paying their respects to their Commander in Chief.

These visits bring me closer to my parents’ memory, and closer to the vital and momentous times in which they lived. When I was young, I used to feel sorry for my parents for having had to endure first the Great Depression and then World War II. But as I grew older, I actually came to envy them for living in a time when a President, who was loved and trusted and respected by so many, united America in common purpose.

Close up of Eric Miller, a white man with white hair and beard.

Eric Miller, a Library member from Hyde Park, NY.

Favorite place to visit on the Library and Museum grounds (other than the museum or house):

At the south side of Springwood, where the land begins to slope down to the Hudson, there is a wooden bench. Although not the same bench, this is the spot where a sleepless Winston Churchill chose to spend a hot night after meeting with FDR, August 13, 1943. Easy to imagine, while sitting on the bench today, is Churchill slipping out the back door of Springwood, walking under the bedrooms of the sleeping Roosevelt’s, then sitting with his cigar and thinking. He had a lot to think about.

Two nights before in Quebec, intent on getting his way again on Allied strategy, Churchill had described FDR to Canada’s prime minister as “a fine fellow, strong in his views, but he comes around.” However, in their meeting at Val-Kill earlier that day, absent was the easy sense of an Anglo-American relationship with “no senior partner.” President Roosevelt had insisted that Churchill support the American-advocated strategy to liberate Northwest Europe, beginning with D-Day, under an American supreme Allied commander. Sitting in the dark, thinking about the day’s encounter with a resolute president, Churchill could hear the world changing. Trains whistled along both banks of the Hudson, carrying the armed might and youth of the United States to the docks of New York and New Jersey. His country was joined in common purpose with a strong, now confident partner. Churchill rose and returned to Springwood, as he later wrote, “refreshed and relaxed after the sun had risen.”

Philip Padgett, a white man wearing a red shirt, stands behind FDR's presidential podium at the FDR Library and Museum.

Philip Padgett, who did a program at the Library on his book, Advocating Overlord: The D-Day Strategy and the Atomic Bomb, and is also a Library member from Kensington, MD.

Favorite memory or experience involving the Roosevelts or the Library:

We have to admit that one of our favorite places to find ourselves is at the Wallace Center for the programs and events. They present extraordinary opportunities to learn the stories of our nation and its people through times of struggle and triumph. There are many programs offered, featuring some of America’s most revered historians, authors, and political scientists. We have had the privilege of seeing and hearing from the likes of Madeline Albright, the late Curtis Roosevelt, Geoffrey Ward, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and George Takei just to name a few. But our favorite day each year has always been the annual Roosevelt Reading Festival.

All day you listen and engage with the highest caliber authors who have written recently published books on a wide variety of subjects. On any festival day it’s possible to sit in on discussions of the New Deal, Japanese internment, Human Rights, the Holocaust, the costs of war, and how they all impact the present and future. Between sessions it’s also possible to reunite with past festival attendees and make new friends while touring the grounds or having a picnic lunch.

We are at the Library so often we sometimes lose sight of how important and special a place it is to people from all over the world, tourists and scholars alike. To us, it is a familiar, comfortable place where we have always been welcomed. Above all we need to acknowledge the hard work and professionalism of the team that makes all this possible while making it seem easy. Thank you for giving the world such a wonderful experience.

Johanna and Robert Titus, two individual standing behind a podium and in front of a projection screen speaking at an event at the FDR Library.

Johanna and Robert Titus, who have done programs at the Library and are also Library members from Freehold, NY.

Favorite memory or experience involving the Roosevelts or the Library:

For me, Hyde Park is a magical place, and I adore going back there. I feel like I’m coming home. My favorite memory is a photo of James MacGregor Burns (winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom), me and our research student at Williams College, Tyler Hull with the Franklin and Eleanor statue from 10 years ago. My favorite experience was when I spoke at the Library’s Roosevelt Reading Festival in 2011 with James and Michael Beschloss, his amazing student at Williams who wrote his senior thesis on “Kennedy and Roosevelt,” which became Michael’s first book.

Susan Dunn and others sitting at Eleanor and Franklin statue bench at the FDR Presidential Library

Susan Dunn, Roosevelt scholar and author, and Library speaker from Williamstown, MA.

Favorite thing in the Museum:

My very favorite photo in the whole museum is the one of Eleanor Roosevelt in a tiny airplane with an African American Tuskegee Airmen pilot. You can see her joy! Fantastic. I also love starting by watching the video about the Great Depression – it’s superb and gripping and fast-moving and full of information visitors don’t know – like the workers in Dearborn. But the very best place, which touches everyone, and I insist they sit, focus, and listen is the 1930’s kitchen where you can sit as a family and listen to President Roosevelt’s radio broadcasts. He speaks clearly and plainly, telling us what has happened, what the government has been doing, and what we need to do to help our country. It works so well to connect us to FDR across the decades because it feels like you are one on one with him speaking directly to you. People really listen and feel that connection!

Image of Anne Sumers, a white woman with blond hair, wearing a blue dress and sitting in a convertible car with her arms outstretched.

Anne Sumers, MD, a Library trustee from Montrose, NY.

Favorite member of the Roosevelt family or administration (other than Franklin or Eleanor):

Fala, a Scottish Terrier, was a member of the Roosevelt Family from 1940 to 1952 providing support, loyalty, and a bit of normalcy during the trying times of the Depression and World War Two. He accompanied FDR on his Presidential duties. Fala was with the President when he died in Warm Spring, Georgia in April of 1945. Fala lived out his “retirement” as Mrs. Roosevelt’s constant companion at Val-Kill and her New York City home. Many recall a story about Fala’s travels as the centerpiece of the President’s nationally broadcast Washington, DC, address to the Teamsters Union on September 23, 1944, that kicked off his campaign for a fourth term. To show the respect and affection the Roosevelt family had for Fala, he is buried at Springwood in a marked grave near the President and Mrs. Roosevelt and Chief, their German Shepherd (1918-1933).

Image of Patrick and Susan Dunn sitting with the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt bench statue at the FRD Library

Patrick and Susan Dunn, Library members from Seattle and Olympia, WA.

Favorite member of the Roosevelt family or administration (other than Franklin or Eleanor):

I got to spend a few moments with Curtis Roosevelt, 10 years ago or so, at the Roosevelt Reading Festival. He was speaking about his book Too Close to the Sun. In between sessions, I saw him sitting off to the side by himself reviewing his notes and I said, ‘Excuse me Mr. Roosevelt.’ How many people get to say that?! At one point in our conversation he looked up at me, eyes twinkling, and said, ‘They don’t let me tell the best stories.’ That’s what I love about the Library, it allows you to touch history. That to me is the best part of history, when you can feel it.

Image of Marcy Pellenberg, a Library member from White Plains, NY.

Marcy Pellenberg, a Library member from White Plains, NY.

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