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Updated: 6/21/2005

 

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Survivors of the Titanic still alive today


July 4, 2002

Winnifred Quick Van Tongerloo, one the few remaining survivors of the Titanic sinking, died on July 4 in East Lansing, Michigan. She was 98.

Ms. Van Tongerloo was 8 when the Titanic went down after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic on its maiden voyage in 1912. Of the nearly 2,200 people aboard, only 705 were saved.

Ms. Van Tongerloo, her sister and her mother were sailing to join the sisters' father in Detroit when the Titanic sank, said Ms. Van Tongerloo's daughter, Janette Happel.

A passenger told the mother that the family should get to the deck because of an accident, Ms. Happel said. Ms. Van Tongerloo's sister and her mother also survived the sinking. 


February 2, 2001
PARIS, France -- The last male survivor of the sinking of the Titanic has died in southern France.

Michel Navratil, who was just three years old when the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in
1912, died in Montpellier on Wednesday aged 92.

Navratil and his two-year-old brother, Edmond, were travelling with their father who was separated from his wife and had taken his sons on the doomed voyage without her permission. Titanic had been hailed unsinkable, but went down just three hours after hitting an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland during her maiden voyage from Southampton.

"There are only four women left now," Edward Kamuda, the founder of the Titanic Historical Society in Springfield, Massachusetts, said.

Navratil had earlier described what happened when the ship began to sink. "My father entered our cabin where we were sleeping. He dressed me very warmly and took me in his arms. A stranger did the same for my brother. When I think of it now, I am very moved. They knew they were going to die. "I don't recall being afraid, I remember the pleasure really, of going plop into the lifeboat." Navratil and his brother were rescued by the Carpathia, the first ship to reach the scene of the sinking after racing through waters filled with icebergs. His father went down with the Titanic. Of the 2,228 people on board, only 705 survived.

When the boys reached the United States, they were taken in by a woman who met them aboard the ship. Their mother learned of their survival by reading newspaper reports about the boys, nicknamed "The Orphans of the Titanic" because no adult came forward to claim them.

Navratil was one of a few survivors who went on cruise ships to the site where the Titanic sank to watch research vessels try to lift part of the hull to the surface.


March 9, 1998
ELGIN, Illinois - Eleanor I. Shuman, one of the last survivors of the Titanic, died on Saturday from an undisclosed illness, a spokesman at Sherman Hospital said. She was 87.

Shuman was less than 2 years old when the ship went down in 1912. She was traveling with her mother, brother and two Swedish teens during the voyage home from Europe, following a visit to relatives. Shuman's mother, brother and one of the teens were among the 705 survivors.

She said she remembered people screaming and crying on the ship and seeing hands reaching up to her. Shuman saw the premiere of the movie "Titanic" last year and met director James Cameron. Schuman said that though she enjoyed the film, its realism brought back haunting memories of drowning victims reaching out to her.

"I kept saying to myself, 'I was there', but it is hard to pin it to those things mum told me about," she said of the movie. "I've seen it twice and I thought it was wonderful."

Her death leaves five survivors of the disaster.


January 28, 1998
PARIS, France - Louise Laroche passed away quietly in Paris at the age of 87. She was 21 months old when rescued from the Titanic.


January 20, 1997
SOUTHAMPTON, England - Mrs. Edith Brown Haisman, the oldest survivor of the Titanic, died at the age of 100. She was 15 years old when placed in lifeboat No. 13 as the Titanic sank. Her father Thomas Brown, a glass of brandy in hand, waved from the deck saying "I will see you in New York."

In 1993 she described her ordeal:

"I was in lifeboat No. 13. I always remembered that. My father was waving to us and talking to a clergyman, the Rev. Carter.

"The Titanic went in the ice and I heard three bangs. Before we hit, there had been terrific vibrations from the engines during the night as the ship was really racing over the sea.

"As the lifeboat pulled away we heard cries from people left on the ship and in the water and explosions in the ship. There were lots of bodies floating. We kept on rescuing people and trying to cover them up against the cold. We were in the lifeboat nine hours.

"I kept looking in the water for my father and when we reached New York we went to the hosptials to see if he had been picked up."

Edith married the late Frederick Haisman in South Africa. They had 10 children and more than 30 grandchildren.



Stories of the Survivors

Anna Turja as told by her grandson John Rudolph Updated 4/14/97

Anna Sophia Turja was one of 21 children, born of two mothers and one father, in Oulainen, in northern Finland. John Lundi, the husband of her half-sister, Maria, invited her to come work for him at his store in Ashtabula, Ohio, and he got her a ticket on the Titanic.


Anna Turja just prior to sailing on Titanic.

Anna Turja in her later years.



Margaret Devaney as written by her grandson Peter W. Mastrolia Updated 3/10/98

At the age of 19 my grandmother boarded that unsinkable ship, THE TITANIC, to take her to the Promised land. Instead,  she found Brooklyn and later the city of my birth, Jersey City.  But as is often the case,extraordinary events make heroes out of Irish peasant girls and unfortunately tragedy makes for good story telling. Just ask the producers of the new movie, "TITANIC".  Margaret Devaney O'Neill fled her small village in County Sligo in 1912 to escape famine, poverty, and the English, just as thousands of others had done, to seek out a new life in the New World.  She carried with her a suitcase, some odds and ends, and the clothes she had on at the time.

Everybody knows the tale of the maiden voyage that would beat her sister ship RMS Olympic for crossing the Atlantic, how the ship drifted north, it hit an iceberg that ripped a hole in the starboard side, one of the boilers blew, and the ship sank like a rock. And although this happened almost 86 years ago people are still fascinated by the story.

She was below decks in third class [steerage] peeling potatoes on April 14 1912 when she decided that she needed some fresh air. With coat in hand she headed up the many flights of stairs to the main deck.  As she was nearing the top of the final flight she felt a tiny bump that interrupted the constant motion she had grown accustomed to over the last four days. It was, of course, the collision with the iceberg that would cause the TITANIC to sink.  Unfortunately, 2230 passengers and crew tried to fit into 20 lifeboats. My grandmother was literally thrown into a boat when she was trying to go back to steerage to find her three traveling companions who boarded with her. She didn't know they were already doomed: Sealed behind bulkheads that were closed to try to prevent the ship from sinking.

On the lifeboat with about 50 other terrified souls it appeared that she would at least survive the sinking, but the officer in charge could not detach the lifeboat from the quickly sinking Titanic. The story goes that Margaret gave him the little knife that she had been using earlier to peel potatoes and with it  he was able to cut the boat loose.

After her lifeboat was picked up by the Carpathia the officer returned the knife to my grandmother and gave her the ensign, which is the plaque that is attached to the side of each lifeboat bearing the White Star Line symbol.  He gave her the ensign to thank her for the knife, but he also knew that people would begin tearing apart the lifeboats as souvenirs and he wanted to make sure that she had something to tell her grandchildren about.

The knife, the ensign and her ticket stubs were on display at the Museum at the base of the Statue of Liberty.  My grandmother's name appears in many books and she had been interviewed many times regarding this incident.  My grandmother died in 1975 but her story lives on.  My daughter, Margaret has written an account of this same story and won a state prize for it.


Catherine & Margaret Murphy as written by their great-granddaughter Erin Garry Updated 4/19/98

    My great-grandmother, Catherine (Kate) Murphy, and her older sister Margaret are survivors of the Titanic disaster.  Here is their own personal story of what happened from what they each told their daughters, who then in turn passed on what the remembered to me:

    Kate and Margaret grew up in a family of thirteen children in County Longford, Ireland.  Their mother was often sick, and their father had died when they were young, so their oldest brother was like the head of the family.  He was very strict, and rarely let the girls go to parties or just go out with their friends and have fun.

      Since they had two sisters and a brother who were already in America, they really wanted to go, but their brother would not permit them to.  Their neighbors, the name of them is uncertain, (I have narrowed it down to three names, Kiernan, O’Brien, and O’Conner), bought Third Class tickets for themselves on the Titanic, and then secretly  bought tickets for Kate and Margaret as well.

      When the boys left for Cobh, (known as Queenstown by those who are un- educated), Kate and Margaret came with them, pretending that they were planning just to see them off on their journey to America.  They would then have their tickets and would be off on their way to New York.  On the way to Cobh, they joked around with each other saying that they were eloping. And it was kind of like they were since they were about the same ages.

    Once on the ship, the girls, who were then only sixteen and twenty, were amazed by how beautiful it was.  Later they would talk about how being on the Titanic was one of the greatest things that they had ever been able to do.  In the evening after dinner there was always parties in the Third Class Dining Room with singing and dancing.  People who had their instruments with them on the ship would break them out and play along with the rhythm of the dancing feet around them.  Third Class may not have been the most elegant, but it was definitely the most fun.

    On the night of the sinking, Kate and Margaret were just going to bed when their neighbors came to their room to tell them what had happened.  Neither of them had had any idea prior to that that anything had happened, and still didn’t realize that the ship was sinking.

    Soon their room began to fill with sea water and the girls tried to get up to the upper decks, but were held back by a sea barrier.  Kate and Margaret, as well as Kathy Gilnagh and Kate Mullins were very happy when James Farrell,  who was also an Irish Third Class passenger ran up to the seaman standing there and yelled, ”Great God, man!  Open the gate and let the girls through!”  Surprisingly enough, the seaman did as Farrell had told him to do, and opened the gate to let them pass through to the upper decks.

    Kate and Margaret eventually got up to the main deck and were lucky enough to make it into a lifeboat, lifeboat number sixteen.

    When the rescue ship Carpathia came, Kate said that she didn’t think that it was going to stop.  People started waving their arms and yelling “Help!! Help!!  Please stop!!”  But the Carpathia did stop, and the two sisters were cold, but still alive when they got hoisted up out of the wooden boat onto the deck of the ship.

      When the Carpathia got to New York, both of them had to go to St. Vincent’s Hospital.  Their siblings, Patrick, of Yonkers, Annie, of Liberty, and Bridget, (called Briggie), came to get them.

      Kate and Margaret were very sad to find out that their neighbors had died on the ship, as well as James Farrell, the man who had saved them.  And to their surprise, back at home in Ireland, their mother was devastated because she thought they had been killed too.  She was very happy to find out that they were both all right.

    Kate and Margaret both eventually got married and each had three children. Kate’s: Marie (my Nana), Rita, and Michael, grew up with Margaret’s: Margaret, Anne (who supplied me with much of this information), and Matthew.  Both lived out long lives, but were forever changed by their journey on Titanic.  They were terrified of water for the rest of their lives.  Kate rarely talked about the tragedy, but her sister, being older when it happened, did.  


Ruth Becker

Ruth Becker
Ruth Becker Blanchard
1899 - 1990

Ruth Becker was 12 years old in 1912 when she and her family travelled on the Titanic. After the sinking, Ruth attended high school and college in Ohio, after which she taught high school in Kansas. She married a classmate, Daniel Blanchard, and after her divorce twenty years later, she resumed her teaching career. Like most survivors, she refused to talk about the sinking and her own children, when young, did not know that she had been on the Titanic.It was only after her retirement, when she was living in Santa Barbara, California, that she began speaking about it, granting interviews and attending conventions of the Titanic Histrorical Society. In March of 1990, she made her first sea voyage since 1912, a cruise to Mexico. She passed away later that year at the age of ninety.

Richard Becker
Richard Becker was Ruth's younger brother and was two years old at the time of the disaster. Richard became a singer and in later life a social welfare worker. Widowed twice, he passed away in 1975.


Nellie Becker
Nellie Becker was the children's mother. She was married to a missionary stationed in India and her three children were sailing to America for treatment of an illness Richard had contracted in India. Once in America, she and her three children settled in Benton Harbour, Michigan, until her husband's arrival from India the following year. It was apparent to him and the children that her personality had changed since the disaster. She was far more emotional and was given to emotional outbursts. Until her death in 1961, she was never able to discuss the Titanic disaster without dissolving into tears.


Marion Becker
Marion contracted tuberculosis at a young age and died in Glendale, California in 1944.


Olaus Abelseth
Olaus tried vacationing in Canada to calm his nerves following his ordeal with the Titanic, but found that simply going back to work was just what he needed. Returning to the South Dakota farm he had first homesteaded in 1908, he raised cattle and sheep for the next 30 years before retiring in North Dakota where he died in 1980.


Madeline Astor
Madeline inherited from her husband the income from a five-million-dollar trust fund and the use of his home on Fifth Avenue and in the Newport so long as she did not marry. In August 1912, she gave birth to a son with whom she was pregnant on the Titanic, and she named him after her husband, John Jacob Astor. She relinquished the Astor income and mansions during World War I to marry William K. Dick of New York, and by him she had two more sons. She divorced Dick in Reno, Nevada in 1933 to marry Italian prize fighter Enzo Firemonte. Five years later this marriage also ended in divorce. She died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1940 at the age of 47.


Richard and Sally Beckwith
Ricahrd and Sally continued to travel and entertained frequently at their homes in New York City and Squam Lake, New Hampshire. Richard died in New York in 1933 and his wife in that city in 1955.


Joseph Boxhall
Joseph was 4th officer on the Titanic and attained a command with the Royal Navy but was never made captain while in the merchant service. He left the sea in 1940 and in 1958 acted as technical advisor to the film "A Night To Remember." Following his death in 1967, his ashes were scattered over the ocean in the vicinity of the Titanic's sinking place.


Harold Bride
Harold Bride was the Titanic's wireless man. He kept a very low profile in the years following the disaster. World War I found him as a wireless operator on the tiny steamer, the Mona's Isle. He later embarked on a career as a salesman before retiring to Scotland where he passed away in 1956.


Molly Brown
Molly's life took a surprising turn after the sinking. Previously, her efforts to be accepted by the Denver society had been unsuccessful, the selflessness and heroism she had shown on the Titanic prompted her neighbours, for a short time, to open their doors to her. In 1914, she was named a potential candidate for Congress. As time passed on, however, she grew increasingly eccentric. Her husband died intestate and she found herself at odds with her children over his money. In 1932, at the age of 65, she died suddenly in New York City after a stroke. It was only after her death, when she became the subject of the hit Broadway musical and film, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" that she gained some of the fame she would have so enjoyed in life.

Link: The Molly Brown Museum


Fredrick Fleet
He was the lookout who first sighted the iceberg that sank the Titanic. He left the sea in 1936. He worked for Harland and Wolff's Southampton shipyard during World War II, after which he became a night watchman for the Union Castle Line. As he moved into old age, he sold newspapers on a street corner in Southampton. In 1965, despondant over his finances and the recent loss of his wife, Fleet took his own life.


J. Bruce Ismay
Ismay retired as planned from the International Mercantile Marine in June 1913, but the position of managing director of the White Star Line that he had hoped to retain was denied him. Survivng the Titanic disaster had made him far too unpopular with the public. He spent his remaining years alternating between his homes in London and Ireland. Because Ismay had never had many close friends, and subsequently had few business conatcts, it was mistakenly assumed that he had become a recluse. He did enjoy being kept informed of shipping news but those around him were forbidden to speak of the Titanic. He died in 1937.


Masabumi Hosono
The Titanic was sinking fast. Horrified passengers rushed onto lifeboats being lowered into the dark, icy sea. Desperate men were stopped at gunpoint so women and children could escape first.
Masabumi Hosono stood on the deck, torn between the fear of shame and the instinct for survival. Then the 42-year-old Japanese bureaucrat found himself in the right place at the right moment. There were two spots open in a lifeboat. Hosono hesitated, but when he saw a man next to him jump in, he swallowed his fear and followed.
Hosono's decision saved his life -- yet it brought him decades of shame in Japan. He was branded a coward, fired from his job and spent the rest of his days embittered.


Sarah A. Stap as written by her grandnephew Gordon Stap Updated 3/13/98

My great-aunt, Miss Sarah Agnes Stap, served on many of the White Star liners as her father was a Captain with the White Star Line. She was born on one of his ships and shared his love of the sea.

She was, in fact, not a stewardess as is commonly listed. She was on the maiden voyage of the "Baltic", and "Adriatic", and also served on the "Celtic", and "Olympic" as a nurse. She was one of the first to be transferred from the Olympic to the Titanic on which she served as matron.

She owed her survival to a young cabin boy beside her who, when she was told to get into a lifeboat by the crew member in charge of that lifeboat, that there was room for her, she told the young cabin boy that as she was forty years old and had had the best years of her life, he should take her spot. The cabin boy's answer was to simply pick her up, and put her in the lifeboat. She died in 1938.

So many heroes unknown, "unheralded and unsung".

Extracts from "Titanic - An Illustrated History" as well as personal stories submitted by relatives.


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Copyright 1996-2005 James E. Sadur.