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Joseph Willard Roosevelt (January 16, 1918 – May 18, 2008) was an American pianist and composer.


He was the second son of Kermit Roosevelt and Belle Wyatt Willard. His paternal grandparents were U.S. President Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt, Jr. and First Lady Edith Kermit Carow.

Roosevelt attended, like several of his family members, Groton School and Harvard University and studied piano with Nadia Boulanger in France.

He served in the Pacific during World War II. He was commissioned in the Naval Reserve on August 19, 1940 and was promoted to lieutenant on March 1, 1943.[1] Later in the war, he served as captain of the USS Greene, (APD-36).[2] With the Greene he supported the invasion of southern France in August 1944 and later served on escort duties in the Pacific.

Joseph was first married to Nancy Thayer, daughter of E. E. Cummings and Elaine Orr.

He taught music at The Hartt School, Mannes College of Music, Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Longy School of Music.

Roosevelt's compositions are published by the American Composers Alliance and Merion Music.

Roosevelt died at the age of 90 on May 18, 2008.

Personal life

Roosevelt was named for his grandfather, Virginia Lieutenant Governor and United States Ambassador to Spain Joseph Edward Willard. His brother is Kermit Roosevelt Jr.; his nephew is Mark Roosevelt; his great-nephews are Kermit Roosevelt III, John Palfrey and Quentin Palfrey.

Roosevelt married first Nancy Cummings, who at the time was known as Nancy Thayer due to her unknowingness regarding her father (she believed it was poet Scofield Thayer due to what her mother told her; it was actually poet E.E. Cummings) on December 22, 1943 in New York City. They had at least two children:

  1. Simon Willard Roosevelt (1945-1965), who died in a motorcycle accident at age 19; he married Ann Whitney Alexander on January 2, 1964, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and they had a son, Simon Cummings Roosevelt a few months later.
  2. Elizabeth Francoise Roosevelt (b. 1947), who married Derek C. Aldred in January 1966 in Hammersmith, Engand.

Roosevelt and Cummings would divorce, and Roosevelt married secondly Carol Adele Russell on May 28, 1955 in Mendon, Vermont. They had three children:

  1. Dirck Roosevelt (b. 1955)
  2. Caleb Willard Roosevelt (1963-1982), who died in a car accident in Pittsfield, Mass.
  3. David Russell Roosevelt (1965-1986), who died after flipping his father's truck near Sandisfield, Mass.

Selected works

Orchestra / band
Chamber / instrumental


  1. ^ United States Bureau of Naval Personnel (1949). Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Naval Reserve. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 867. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  2. ^ "Paid Death Notices; J. Willard Roosevelt". The New York Times. September 21, 2008. Retrieved June 7, 2022.