Rosie was born November 25, 1867 in Cincinnati to Prussian immigrants, Henry (a carpenter) and Mary Vonderheide. She grew up in Cincinnati, near the river in the lower West End. She married Harry H. Dyer, and bore him two sons, Raymond Dyer and Frederick Walter Dyer. Harry worked with the railroad; first as an engine wiper, then fireman, then engineer.
Upon entering his 30s, Harry contracted endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the heart. As Harry’s symptoms became more pronounced and debilitating, with 6- and 1-year-old sons, Rose sought employment and on December 7, 1893 was nominated for the position of janitress at the Cincinnati Police House of Detention on the 3rd Floor of the west wing of City Hall; which paid $35 a month. She was approved 10 days later, December 17.
During 1894, House of Detention Matron Meade became seriously ill and Mrs. Dyer filled in for her. On October 1, 1884, the Matron complement was increased to three and Mrs. Dyer and Miss Amelia Winters were hired as matrons. Each worked 8-hours shifts, seven days a week, which we believe reduced Matron Meade’s hours significantly. For Mrs. Dyer it was a $15/month raise for her family. Her husband passed away May 5, 1895.
Within a couple of years, Matron Dyer found a father for her sons, marrying Irish immigrant, John F. Regan, a locomotive engineer on the Big Four Railroad. One of her sons, Raymond, when he was of age, also began working for the Big Four Railroad.
On Saturday afternoon, February 8, 1908, while working at City Hall, Matron Regan needed to use the Police Elevator, but the elevator operator was absent. She attempted to control the car herself, but as she descended, something happened that caused her to try to jump off. Her body got caught between the elevator car and the shaft and was crushed. She was taken to the City Hospital.
Mr. Regan came to her bedside and remained there until, at 8 a.m. the next morning, February 9, 1908, she passed away, becoming the second female line of duty death in American law enforcement history.
Matron Regan was survived by her mother, Mrs. Mary Vonderheide; husband, John F. Regan (55); and children, Raymond Regan (20) and Walter Frederick Regan .
A funeral service was conducted at the Regans’ home at 921 West Court Street. A requiem high mass was celebrated by Fr. Mulvihill at St. Peter in Chain Cathedral on February 12, 1908. She is buried in St. Joseph’s (New) Cemetery.
At the inquest, Coroner Otis Cameron ruled that she died from “shock following multiple injuries, the result of being accidentally crushed in an elevator at City Hall.”
For many years, Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, and National Law Enforcement Memorial believed that Hamilton County Jail Matron Anna Hart was the first female United States law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty. When we began researching Matron Regan’s death, we thought she was the first. However, in doing her research, we found that another matron in New York predeceased her and Matron Hart in 1906.
The Greater Cincinnati Police Museum, on March 6, 2018, submitted to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial an application to include Matron Regan on the national monument for officers who died in the line of duty.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Memorial@Police-Museum.org.
© 2018 – This line of duty death was rediscovered in 2016 by Joyce Meyer, Price Hill Historical Society Historian. The narrative was further researched and revised June 18, 2017 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Director, with further research by Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Historian, and Northern Kentucky Greater Cincinnati Airport Police Chief Thomas Mentrup (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Volunteer. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.