During the spring of 1945, the forturnes of war had turned in favor of the United States and its allies. The hour of victory was approaching, as some then said. During the same period, however, the health of our nation's president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was deteriorating rapidly. Indeed, when President Roosevelt returned to the United States from the Yalta Conference and addressed a joint session of Congress on March 1, 1945, he delivered his remarks while seated, with grayish skin, and with halting speech to the stark concern of many members of Congress.
On Thursday, April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died at Warm Springs, Georgia, at a polio treatment center he previously had founded to ease the lives of those, like him, who suffered from the terrible disease. FDR's body was placed on a "funeral train" and was carried from Warm Springs, Georgia to Washington, D.C. for a funeral service. After the service, his body was placed on the funeral train for transport to the Roosevelt homestead in Hyde Park, New York, for interrment.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 27, 1933.
Source: Photograph by Elias Goldensky (1868-1943), Library
of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs,
Pelham residents were shocked and saddened to learn of the President's passing. Soon they learned that the President's funeral train would pass slowly past the Pelham Train Station at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 15, 1945.
Commander Daniel Brown of Pelham Post No. 50, American Legion, oversaw the formation of a guard of honor, a color guard, and a company of members from the Post to pay respect to the deceased Commander-in-Chief as the funeral train moved through Pelham. In addition, local Boy Scout officials and Boy Scouts presented their own color guard with its colors draped to salute the deceased President as the funeral train passed.
At the appointed time, the first of two trains that formed the funeral train procession traveled slowly past the Pelham Train Station. More than one hundred Pelham residents stood on the station platforms to pay their respects, not realizing that there were two trains in the procession.
Once the first train made its way past the station, some of those who had waited on the platform departed for home, not knowing that the President's body was carried in the second train. About one hundred mourners including the Legionnaires, Boy Scouts and others, however, remained on the platforms when the second train slowly passed. Those still on the platform saluted solemnly and paid their respects. According to one account, "sorrow was evident among them."
Photograph Said to Depict FDR Funeral Train in April, 1945.
Pelham mourned the passing of President Roosevelt in ways more profound than viewing the funeral train early Sunday morning. The previous day, Saturday, April 14, 1945, at 4:00 p.m. when the funeral service in Washington, D.C. was held, the bell at the North Pelham fire headquarters tolled for five minutes and nearly every business closed out of respect. Flags were flown at half-staff for the next thirty days and special memorials were held by the Town Board, the School Board, and the local Lions Club. Special services were held by various of the churches and church organizations of the Town, and prayer services were conducted.
Pelham, without regard to politics, paid homage to the man who had led the nation to the brink of victory in one of the gravest challenges the nation ever faced -- World War II.
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"Pelham Mourns Death of President Roosevelt
Pelham was shocked in common with the rest of the country by the news that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died Thursday at Warm Springs, Ga. All flags on public buildings were ordered at half mast and on Saturday nearly every store was closed during the 4 o'clock funeral service hour. The bell at fire headquarters tolled for five minutes.
Color Guard, Legion and Scouts
When the news came that the train bearing the body of the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would pass through Pelham at 5:30 A.M. Sunday morning, Commander Daniel Brown called for a color guard and a company of members from Pelham Post No. 50, American Legion to form a guard of honor. With colors draped they formed on the station platform and saluted as the train proceeded slowly through the station. About a hundred persons were present. The funeral cortege consisted of two trains on the second of which was the body of the President. After the first train passed some of those present departed and missed seeing the second train.
In addition to the guard of honor of the Legionnaires was a number of Boy Scouts of Troop 2 in uniform with Scout Commissioner Archer Wirth and Scoutmaster John De Caprio in command. Their colors were draped and they saluted as the train passed through. About 100 persons were on the platform at the time and sorrow was evident among them.
Board of Education Resolution
At the meeting of the Board of Education on Thursday, former president of the Board William L. Chenery, moved that suitable resolutions taking cognizance of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt be prepared and that the flags of the school buildings be ordered flown at half-mast during the mourning period of thirty days.
Town Board Met and Adjourned
Supervisor George Lambert called a special meeting of the Town Board on Friday night. In opening the meeting, at which all members were present, Supervisor Lambert spoke of the loss which the nation has sustained by the passing of President Roosevelt just as the hour of victory approaches, and in turn each member of the Board was called upon to express his personal sorrow.
The Board adjourned immediately afterward.
Lions Club Mourns Passing
At the Lions Club luncheon on Monday, President Thomas M. Kennett ordered club national colors draped in mourning for thirty days. He spoke of President Roosevelt as an international humanitarian deeply aware of the principles of democracy for which this country was founded, and one who placed the common welfare of all the people over whose destinies he presided as one of the most important of his responsibilities.
At Christ Church
Prayers for the late President were read at all the services in Christ Church on Sunday morning. At the 7:15 and 11:15 o'clock services special processions to the War Shrine in the church were made and prayers led by the rector, Rev. Edward Taggard.
A memorial Eucharist was held on Friday morning in Christ Church.
At Church of Redeemer
After the National Anthem was sung at the beginning of the morning service on Sunday at the Church of the Redeemer, the rector, Rev. William S. Banks, spoke feelingly about the loss which the country has sustained in the passing of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the national grief that was evident. Special prayers were offered for the repose of his soul for the welfare of the country and for the new President and the coming peace of the world.
Christian Endeavor Group Pay Tribute To Late President
The Christian Endeavor of the Congregational Church of the Pelhams devoted the entire portion of its weekly worship service to a tribute of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The service was written and conducted by Miss Hope Tyson [sp?] and incluuded the reading of the 103rd Psalm which was a favorite of the late President.
Accompanied by Miss Barbara Durham at the organ, the group sang 'Lead Kindly Light,' 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,' 'Abide With Me,' 'Onward Christian Soldiers,' and 'Faith of Our Fathers,' hymns for which Mr. Roosevelt had indicated a preference.
In the prayer dedicated to Mr.
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Pelham Mourns The Passing Of Pres. Roosevelt
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Roosevelt, which she herself composed, Miss Tyson led the group in a petition for God's blessing on the late President and the work which he had started but was not permitted to finish.
Following the worship service which was held in the Chapel Sunday evening, Miss Tyson was elected vice president to serve in the place of Miss Louise Dickenson who is moving to Florida. Plans were formulated for the Spring Dance which the group will sponsor in May. The business meeting was presided over by the president, William W. Downes, son of the pastor.
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Special Service At Congregational Church
Special prayers were offered for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman at the morning worship service of the Congregational Church of the Pelhams. Paying tribute to the late President, the pastor, the Rev. W. Wallace Downes, said that 'altho we may have differed with him in many things; altho in the heat of political campaigns we may have opposed him, no one, I feel, may justifiably take from him the sincerity of his purposes, the vision which he had, the ideals of world brotherhood which he sponsored, and the emancipation of all peopleds which he undertook in the name of the citizens of our nation.'
Mr. Downes spoke of the courage of Mr. Roosevelt in overcoming 'a bodily impediment that to a lesser mind and heart would have been an insurmountable barrier,' and concluded by saying that 'he fell, a martyr to the cause to which hed had pledged himself, even as our men and boys are giving their lives on the far-flung battlefields of this global holocaust.'"
Source: Pelham Mourns Death of President Roosevelt, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 19, 1945, p. 1, cols. 2-3 & p. 4, cols. 2-3.
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Labels: 1945, Boy Scouts, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Funeral, New Haven Line, Pelham Post No. 50 American Legion, Pelham Train Station