Matron Rosa A. (Vonderheide) (Dyer) Regan | Cincinnati Place of Detention

 


 

Age     40
Served 14 years
December 7, 1893 to February 9, 1908

 

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 on February 16, 1887 and bore him two sons, Raymond Dyer (1887) and Frederick Walter Dyer (1892).  Harry worked with the railroad; first as an engine wiper, then fireman, then engineer.

Upon entering his 30s, Henry contracted endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the heart.   As Henry’s symptoms became more pronounced and debilitating, with 6- and 1-year-old sons, Rose sought employment.  On December 7, 1893 she 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 ten days later, December 17th.

During 1894, 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 a month raise for her family.   Her husband Henry 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 Dyer (20) and Walter Frederick Dyer (15).  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.”

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.

In researching her life and death and of her survivors the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum’s Historian found she was buried in an unmarked grave, apparently without honors typically bestowed on a fallen law enforcement officer.  The Museum arranged for the donation of a headstone and, on May 19, 2018, the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum, Hamilton County Police Association, and Hamilton County Sherriff collaborated to rededicate her grave with due honors.  The ceremonies were attended by more than two dozen of Mrs. Regan’s descendants and family members.

The Greater Cincinnati Police Museum, on March 6, 2018, submitted to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial an application for Matron Regan to be added to the national monument.

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.  This narrative was further researched and revised June 12, 2018 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Memorial Committee Chairman, 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.