Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, endured much tragedy in his life. As a child he had frequent ailments and was often sickly. He also suffered from Asthma and had to be propped up in bed to sleep. On his 22nd birthday, in 1880, Teddy married Alice Hathaway Lee.
On February 14, 1884, two days after the birth of their daughter, Alice died of an diagnosed case of kidney failure – then called Bright’s disease. Her pregnancy masked the illness. Eleven hours earlier, Teddy’s mother, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, died of typhoid fever. His elder sister took care of his new daughter Alice as Teddy tried to deal with the death of his young wife. For his diary entry on February 14, 1884, he drew a large ‘X’ and wrote, “The light has gone out of my life.”
It was believed that he was so traumatized with Alice’s death that could not bear to think of her. He also rarely spoke of her again nor allowed her name to be mentioned in his presence. Alice’s name does not even appear in his autobiography.
That was not the end of Teddy’s heartbreak. During World War I, his son Quentin (with his second wife Edith Kermit Carow) joined the United States Army Air Corps and served as a pursuit pilot. On July 14, 1918, he was shot down and killed over France. His son’s death weighed heavily on Teddy as he had encouraged Quentin’s entry into the war. It was said that Teddy never recovered from the shock of his son’s death and, within six months, Teddy died from an embolism.
Roger Matuz, The Presidents Fact Book, New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2012.