Bereaved Presidents…
by Harriet Deshayes

Did you know that…

    Twenty of our 42 presidents and their wives were and are bereaved parents?

    Our second president, John Adams, lost his son Charles, 20, while he was president.

    Thomas Jefferson had six children and only two lived to maturity. One daughter, Mary, 26, died while he was president.

    James Monroe lost a son two years of age.

    John Quincy Adams lost a daughter in infancy; a son died while Adams was president; and another son died five years later.

    William Harrison had ten children; six died before he became president.

    Zachary Taylor had six children; two died as infants and a daughter died three months after her wedding.

    Millard Fillmore's daughter Abigail died at 22.

    Our fourteenth president, Franklin Pierce, lost two sons in infancy. History records his wife's grief so great that he resigned from the Senate. Two months before his inauguration to the presidency, their only child, Benjamin, 11 years old, was killed in a railroad accident. Mrs. Pierce collapsed from grief and was unable to attend the inauguration. She secluded herself in an upstairs bedroom for nearly half of her husband's term in office.

    Our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, lost two sons during his lifetime: Edward, four years old, while President Lincoln was in office; and William, 11 years old. He wrote, "In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all…it comes with bitterest agony…Perfect relief is not possible except with time. You cannot realize that you will ever feel better…and yet this is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have experienced enough to know what I say." The president's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, unable to cope with the assassination of her husband and the death of yet another son, Thomas, 18 years old, was confined to a sanitarium. Although she was released after a few months, she was never to be well again.

    Rutherford B. Hayes had eight children, three of whom died in infancy.

    James Garfield had seven children; two died while still infants.

    Chester Alan Arthur's eldest son died in infancy.

    Grover Cleveland's eldest daughter, Ruth, died at 13 years of age.

    Our twenty-fifth president, William McKinley, lost both children: Ida, four months old, and Katherine, four years old. His wife became so overwhelmed with shock and grief that she became an invalid for the remainder of her life.

    Theodore Roosevelt's son died at 21 years of age.

    Calvin Coolidge had a son, Calvin Jr., who died at 16 while his father was in office. Recorded in his autobiography, the president said, "When he went, the power and glory of the presidency went with him."

    Franklin Roosevelt's son, Franklin Jr., died in infancy.

    Dwight Eisenhower's son, Doug Dwight "Icky," three years old, died at Camp Mead, Maryland. In President Eisenhower's autobiography written in 1969 (49 years after Icky died), he stated, "With his death a pall fell over the camp. When we started the long trip back to Denver for his burial, the entire command turned out in respect to Icky. We were completely crushed – it was a tragedy from which we never recovered. I do not know how others have felt when facing the same situation, but I have never known such a blow. Today when I think of it, even as I now write of it, the keenness of my loss comes back to me as fresh and terrible as it was in that long, dark day soon after Christmas, 1920."

    John F. Kennedy's two-year-old son, Patrick died while his father was president; Kennedy lost another infant prior to becoming president.

    George Bush and his wife Barbara lost their daughter Robin to cancer.


Republished here with one time rights permission of TCF:
Author: Harriet Deshayes, TCF Fresno County Chapter
The Compassionate Friends
P. O. Box 3696, Oak Brook IL 60522-3696
Phone (Toll Free): (877) 969-0010

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