Tuesday, 19 November 2019

ROOSEVELT: - name dropping (and my bragging rights)

Our beloved Jeanette Roosevelt was married to the late Curtis Roosevelt between 1961 and 1985.

Curtis (1930 - 2016) was the grandson of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.  He spent some of his his young years in the White House.

He was the son of the Roosevelt's  only daughter Anna, and her husband Curtis Bean Dahl.  Their marriage was short lived.

Anna  remarried a man named Boettinger, but this second marriage was also disastrous.  When it ended Eleanor Roosevelt suggested that her beloved grandson Curtis should not have to use  the last names of his father or his stepfather, but that he should use his middle name of Roosevelt as his last name.  This he did.

Despite the divorce our dear Jeanette maintained a "sorta" friendship with Curtis.  So it was that I met him a few times  when he visited her at their Berkshire County (MA) home. We liked each other.

Our Berkshire County (Western Mass) connection led me me to  visit Curtis and his fourth (and utterly charming) wife Marina at  their sweet home in Saint Bonnet du Gard, France; half way between Avignon and Nimes, and not far from the famous Roman Pont du Gard.

S. Bonnet du Gard.

Pont du Gard

During my visit I had been out and about one day,   (probably visiting  Nimes). When I got back Curtis was nowhere to be seen. 

So  Marina and I sipped our glasses of wine in the lovely garden as she told me of her early life.

She was born in war torn northern France, or Belgium.  Her birth mother left her in the care of a loving Belgian family who had two daughters.   Marina grew up believing them to be her parents and family.  

When she was a young girl, (aged eight or nine?)  her birth mother swooped in and took her to England (she knew not a word of English); and she did not know this woman who had "kidnapped" her.

The Belgian family had no legal rights, for they had never formally adopted her.

She never forget them, their name, and the name of the Belgian village.

Many years later, after her marriage to Curtis they drove to the village.  Just as soon as they arrived they met a mail man and asked if he knew any family with the unusual name.  He said they there were three families with that name, indeed he lived next door to one of them.

The mail man took them to the house.  Curtis and Marina knocked on the door.   An elderly woman answered their knock, came to the door, then slammed the door shut.

They heard her footsteps leave and then return to the door.  She was clutching in her bosom a framed photograph of Marina in her First Communion dress.  That photo' had rested atop their piano  for all those many years.

Marina had a joyful/tearful reunion with her Belgian family.

Of course I shed tears as Marina told me the story.

After the tears Marina invited me into the house to view a piece of furniture which had recently been returned after having been on exhibit in the States.

It was a rather ordinary looking book case.  "This", Marina said, was in the White House".  Then she touched a secret lock.  The bookshelves were doors which swung open.  Behind the doors were shelves designed to hold liquor.

These book cases/liquor shelves were quite common in the homes of the wealthier classes during prohibition.

My gauche self asked  "may I touch it".  Permission was readily forthcoming.  So now I brag:    I once touched a book case which FDR had touched many times!

Hidden book case/liquor shelves (not the one I saw). The wings would fold in disguising the liquor shelves as a book case.

Curtis arrived home and announced that we would have dinner at the local village cafe, a plain and ordinary place, with wonderful food  (Vive la France!).

I asked if he liked to talk about life in the White House, and especially about his Grandmother Eleanor.  He responded that he loved to do that.  So our dinner conversation was "all about Eleanor".  What a privilege for me!

Eleanor Roosevelt 1933 portrait.

It is common to speak of the greatness of FDR.  I will not argue with that.

But for my money Eleanor was greater. 

It was my privilege to have that conversation with her grandson Curtis, whose respect and admiration for her knew no bounds.

I have lived, let's say, an interesting life.šŸ˜Š

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