A Life Remembered

We had intended to spend a little time in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, although we did need to get to Rhinebeck, New York, by Sunday, September 30th. Unfortunately, we encountered bad weather, so we decided to just drive the backroads without any significant sight-seeing.

By the time we got to Rhinebeck on Friday, water had found its way into the electrical system on the RV and there were gremlins in the dashboard making all the warning lights flash like Christmas tree lights. Red flashed the “ABS Brake” warning light; red flashed the “Low Battery” light; red flashed the “Check Transmission” light; and then came the blare of the LPG warning system.

So, now we’re in a campground outside of Rhinebeck for the week while Dale attends a seminar at the Omega Institute down the road and I troubleshoot the electrical system, trying to find the short circuit.

But, we needed to get out of the RV Saturday and Sunday when the weather broke. And we were happy to find that the home, museum and Presidential Library of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is also just down the road.

FDR was the 32nd President of the United States and the only one to serve more than two terms (now prohibited by an amendment to the Constitution), elected in 1932 and dying in office in 1945. He was President during most of the years of both the Great Depression and World War II.

Roosevelt modeled his political career on that of his 5th cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President, except, of course, that FDR was a Democrat, but TR was a Republican.

FDR was raised in the lap of luxury, spending his adolescence on the Hudson River near the Vanderbilts and the Mills. Here’s his childhood backyard:

The house he grew up in had a “mere” 18 rooms; as the new President, FDR enlarged it to 32 rooms by adding the two wings you see in this picture on either side of the portico which was added when, like TR before him, he became Governor of the State of New York:

Though raised in wealth, FDR pushed for numerous “New Deal” economic and social welfare programs for the “forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid” upon which wealth is built.

Ironically, the phrase that FDR used – the “forgotten man” – came from an earlier academic treatise, written by William Graham Sumner, in which Sumner coined the phrase, “Forgotten Man,” to symbolize the taxpayer that is forced by well-meaning do-gooders to pay for programs that benefit those perceived by those do-gooders to be in need. That is, to Sumner, the “forgotten man” was the taxpayer.

At any rate, for better or for worse, the New Deal programs are still with us, though in dire need of reform.

We toured FDR’s mansion house, but were not able to visit the full museum or Presidential Library because they were being worked on.

Two rooms in the house struck me. Here’s the bedroom that Franklin and his wife, Eleanor (his 5th cousin, once removed), shared:

Though FDR was a devout family man, he and Eleanor did not seem to be very affectionate toward each other.

At the age of 39 – before he entered politics on the national stage – FDR was stricken with polio and became paralyzed from the waist down. To me, this is what makes FDR such a remarkable man: he faced adversity and overcame it to make his mark on the world.

This picture of his study and the chair he used to get around, speak volumes:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office during the waning years of WWII at the beginning of his 4th term as President. He was buried here at his home on the Hudson in his mother’s rose garden. His grave, marked by an American flag, lies to the left of a marble monument that is the size of the desk behind which he sat and led the nation through some of the most difficult years of the 20th Century. To the left of FDR lies his wife and partner for those many years, Eleanor.

The day we visited FDR’s home, after I had written most of this post, I learned that one of my best and most cherished friends, John Ciullo, passed away in South Florida.

I had not seen much of John over the last decade or so, both of us caught up in careers, and me and Dale in raising a family. Yet, John and I always felt close and, on the rare occasion that we were able to get together, comfortable in our brotherly love for each other. We shared many good times over the years.

Captain John, you will be missed. Rest in peace.

One thought on “A Life Remembered

  1. When I received the news of John’s passing from Debbie, I cried. Sure, I had visited my parents for YEARS in south Florida but didn’t look him up…sure, I had heard about his illustrious career at Imperial Point, and sure best I knew he was still as handsome and as single as when I knew him back in the 70’s.
    I cried for his smile, his love of surfing (even in the small swells of Stuart and Pompano), I cried for the days of fun and innocence once shared at the Tanglewood, the beach at SE 8th St and at the Pompano pier. I cried in remembrance of all my friends and their families on SE 16th Ave; the Shiples, the Ciullos, the Baulds, even the Guancis, the Yates at SE 3rd Street, the Hellegaards in Lyons Park and to the author of this post…dear Mark Ulmer…the first known owner of a Honda car ever. And that memory makes me cry for the days when gas was less than one dollar/gal so the guy with the car (you) that got over 50 miles/gal was our first DD!!!
    I cried for John’s life cut short and how vulnerable we all are to the cards life deals to us.
    Thank you for post, Mark. Glad we’re friends in that 70’s memory kind of way 🙂

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