Teamster History: 1920, The Death of Annie Reagan Tobin

Posted: May 11, 2015
Source: Teamster.org

Tobin family at the beachIn August of 1920, Tobin’s wife of 30 years, Annie Reagan Tobin, died unexpectedly from complications caused by undiagnosed diabetes. Annie had been at their small summer house in South Massachusetts when Dan received the terrible news at his room in the Indianapolis Grand Hotel. He rushed back to Boston on the first train leaving Indianapolis. During the 30-hour ride from Indianapolis, Dan grieved the loss of his wife and, always the pragmatist, pondered his future. He would need to bury his wife, then figure out how to live without her support looking after their six children.

Tobin would face some difficult questions: Who would take care of his kids still at home? Would he quit his position as General President? Should he return to his work as a business agent at Local 25? Although the International Headquarters was in Indianapolis, Tobin and his family had maintained their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Annie had been the one to take care of things at the home front, and he had always depended on her to maintain his affairs back East. But he was now a single parent of six children—five boys and one girl, with a hectic job which kept him away from home most days out of the year.

Seeing as union obligations demanded he be away from home the majority of the time, Tobin faced some tough decisions moving forward. Back in Massachusetts, Tobin sought council from his friend John Gillespie, who discouraged Tobin from resigning as General President. After two weeks of heavy thought, he decided that the best decision would be to continue serving at the helm of the International. One of his wife’s sisters would look after the children, as would his oldest son John, who had recently returned from the war and was attending a nearby college.

The death of Annie Reagan would leave Tobin deeply depressed and conflicted throughout the first part of the 1920s. He missed her and felt guilty that while she was alive he had spent so much time away—and that he was continuing to spend time away from his motherless children. Not inclined to sentimentality, he suffered in silence, something he learned to do early in life.

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