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The Sudden Death of FDR (April 12, 1945)

FdrMy mother was 19 years old in the spring of 1945 and had a war-related job in downtown Pittsburgh working for the American Bureau of Shipping.  The Bureau was located on the 32nd floor of the Grant Building, the second tallest building in Pittsburgh (it had been the tallest until the 44-story Gulf Building opened in 1933).  Mom's job, her first out of high school, was as a typist who prepared shipping certificates that were attached to crates of munitions being shipped to various European destinations (she was under strict orders not to discuss her work).  In smoky Pittsburgh of the 1940s this was a great place to be working, and the Grant Building was one of the city's premiere business addresses.


April 12 of that year was a Thursday and she and her friend/co-worker, Willa, left work and walked down to Joseph Horne department store where they got on the streetcar for the 20-30 minute trip to their neighborhood of Chartiers City.  Shortly after arriving at their stop they bumped into a neighbor, Mrs. Frankel, who told them the news that President Roosevelt had died a short time ago.  FDR died of a stroke in the middle of the afternoon while having his portrait painted in Warms Springs, Georgia.  The president was only 63 and just three months into his unprecedented fourth term.




Shortly after the news was reported on the radio paperboys were out on the streets selling an "extra" edition of the paper with the breaking news.  Mom said it was difficult to imagine life without him; after all, her formative years had been lived entirely under FDR's presidency.  And Harry Truman's countrified persona couldn't have been more different from that of the more worldly FDR with his trademark monocle, cigarette holder and patrician accent.




One month later the war ended in Europe and Mom was without a job.  However, she said it was all done in a very nice way and everyone who was let go was given a bonus.  With part of hers Mom bought a pair of earrings she had been admiring for some time at a jewelry store in the lobby of the Grant Building.  They had three small clusters, each with a different colored gemstone surrounded by rhinestones.  They cost $5 (about $65 in today's dollars).  And she still has them. 





(To further immerse yourself in FDR's legacy you may want to consider the book FDR or the PBS video American Experience: FDR).  

As told by Mary Frydlewicz



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I was born after Roosevelt died and named Franklin in his honor. I was getting a panoramic dental Xray and the technician told me her brothers were named Frank and Jesse, after the James Bros. I told her I was named after FDR and she said, "Oh, you were named after the FDR?," referring of course to our East River Highway.

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