Duluthians shed tears openly at news of Roosevelt’s death

President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office on April 12, 1945, after a massive intracerebral hemorrhage at the age of 63. Shown here is how it was reported in Duluth.

Below is the text from the Duluth News Tribune’s story.

Duluthians Shed Tears Openly and Unabashed at News of FR’s Death
By Patricia Tyan
News-Tribune Staff Writer

Tears were shed openly and unashamed among grief-stricken home-going crowds in Duluth’s downtown section late yesterday afternoon as word spread that President Roosevelt was dead.

Men and women pouring from office buildings stood agape as they learned the news — and many wept unabashed. Hundreds milled around Third avenue west and Superior street, stunned by the tragedy.

Mothers with sons overseas — housewives knowing and loving President Roosevelt as a person of much kindness rather than a scholarly statesman or shrewd politician — untold numbers of them were powerless to stem their tears.

The words, “If only he could have lived to see the peace,” echoed and re-echoed in theater and building lobbies, tearooms and restaurants, on street corners and in transit buses.

Late afternoon shoppers were sorrowed by the irony of the death of the nation’s leader at the time of America’s approaching triumph over the enemies of democracy.

At the Duluth USO center, men in khaki and navy blue plainly showed their grief in a hushed silence. To a curly-haired sailor from Green Bay, Wis., the tragic news carried a personal significance. A son had just been born to his wife in Green Bay, and he had just received the news at the same time he heard of the President’s death.

“I can feel their quietness. I wish they could cry,” whispered Mrs. Emily Lee, USO center director, as she turned away from the servicemen to speak to her assistant, Miss Marion Chinn.

On Superior street, youngsters of school age, who have known no president but President Roosevelt, revealed in their drooping mouths a child’s grief in tragedy.

Two Washington Junior high school girls, Muriel, 13, and Shirley, 12 (they didn’t stop to give their last names), told a clerk in a drugstore, “We’ve been studying about him in our current events paper.” Their bobby socks flopped about their ankles as they disconsolately trudged off.

In another instance of how youngsters too the news, a little 8-year-old tugged at his dad’s sleeve and said, “I learned about him in school.”

With incredulity, Pvt. C. R. Sandstrom, Two Harbors, a soldier on furlough from Shepard field, Texas, read the Duluth Herald “extra” and said in typical GI fashion to no one in particular, “It sure surprises the hell out of me.”

Over her untouched food in a restaurant, Mrs. Anna Folta, Duluth manager for a national cosmetic concern, sobbed uncontrollably. “Next to my husband I loved Roosevelt,” she wept.

A block of text inset in the story reads:

Mayor Edward H. Hatch last night issued a proclamation calling upon Duluth citizens to fly their American flags at half staff beginning at sunrise today in mourning for the departed President, and to keep them at half staff until the hour he is laid to rest Sunday.

1 Comment

Helmut Flaag

about 4 years ago

I found the same newspaper a few weeks ago at the estate warehouse in Superior with the following day's Duluth Herald from Friday, April 13. The movie Hangover Square was playing. My grandparents were scheduled to be married on the day he died. They decided to go ahead with the wedding anyway despite the damper it placed on the ceremony. Ironically, he barely survived the war because he almost died from pneumonia.

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