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

 

 

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

 

 

OFFICER

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, Rosa 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 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 a month raise for her family.

Henry Dyer 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.

 

INCIDENT

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.

 

DEATH

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.

 

EPILOGUE

For many years, the 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.  Joyce Meyers, researcher for the Price Hill Historical Society, was researching Cincinnati line of duty deaths when, during 2015, she came across Matron Regan and reported her finding to the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.  Together she and we researched Matron Regan’s life and death.  Then we found still another matron, in New York, had predeceased her and Matron Hart in 1906.

We also found that Matron Regan had no headstone; nor was she apparently afforded burial ceremonies we have become accustomed to for police officers.

Inclusion on any law enforcement memorial has become an intensive process and the Historical Society did its best to determine all the necessary data for the Nation Memorial was well as their own memorial at the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum.  One criterion is that relatives are contacted in order to verify the data, especially the spelling of the name.  We had a very difficult time doing so until Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati Airport Police Chief Thomas Mentrup (Retired) deciphered research data and determined that Matron Regan was previously married and widowed and that her last name had been Dyer.  With that information, we found living ancestors.

On May 18th, during Police Memorial Week 2018, the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society hosted a grave rededication ceremony which included many of her family and dozens of law enforcement officials including the Hamilton County Sheriff, Cincinnati Police Chief, and Greater Cincinnati Museum Executive Director.  Schott Monument graciously provided a gravestone engraved with a Police Matron badge.

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.  On March 8, 2019, we received an affirmative response.  On May 13, 2019, during a candlelight vigil, her name engraved in the granite memorial in Washington DC was uncovered and witnessed by thousands, including several members of her family.

The single photograph we were able to obtain for Matron Regan was too grainy for display on the National Memorial’s website or at the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum.  Miss Cassandra Kramer of Kansas City, Kansas, at multi-talented teenaged graphic artist, spent many hours painstakingly adding sharpened features and creating the image we display today.

 

If you know of any information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Memorial@Police-Museum.org.

© 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 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.  The image was modified by Miss Cassandra Kramer, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Volunteer.  All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.