Barbara McDermott passes away


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Aug 29, 2000
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It is with great sadness that I learned that Mrs. McDermott passed away about 10: 30 last evening, Saturday, April 12th. She had suffered several falls recently and recovered from pneumonia only to develop kidney failure.

She was a lovely lady, much loved by family and all who knew her. Barbara was born in 1912 and her birthday would have been next month. I am sure many here can share memories.
 
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News of the funeral arrangements have just been released. Calling hours are Tuesday, April 15th from 11:30-12:30 at the Clancy-Sisk Brothers Funeral Home, 43 Kirkham Avenue, East Haven, CT followed by a memorial service at the Old Stone Church, 251 Main Street, East Haven. I am sure some may wish to send flowers. Barbara was very appreciative of the great effort made by ET members, especially Cliff Barry, in raising funds for a permanent stone marker for her mother and baby brother back in Darlington, England. How she loved meeting people and sharing her story! This is a very sad day, likened only to the passing of Miss Lillian Asplund, for Barbara was the last with any memories of the great ship disaster. Thanks to some good folks here, Lusitania Purser Harkness' family has been in touch with her, and Barbara was given the opportunity to share her incredible story of rescue with so many around the world for the past eight years.
 

Mike Poirier

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Dec 12, 1999
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It's a very sad day. We've all gotten to know and love Barbara, and other survivors of wrecks, and it's very emotional when they pass on and you think of all the good times you've had together. I think a saint has gone to God.
 

Jim Kalafus

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This is one of the few times that words fail me.

Barbara was such a dynamic person that, even though one knew she was 93...95...95, the thought of her mortality never really entered the equation. She certainly never spoke of it….at parting time, it was always “Now, you come see me again in the spring” and never “goodbye.”

I wish that everyone in the liner community could have met with her one-on-one. Because she was genuinely nice, and loved making new friends. Her door was always open, and she always had a nice smile and food waiting for guests. She enjoyed giving hand-made gifts, and if she made YOU happy, then she was happy.

She would often comment that the only good thing to come out of the disaster was that it allowed her to make scores of new friends at an age where most people are not as fortunate. I’ll always remember how she positively….glowed…..at a dinner party we all attended in Newport, and how very content and vibrant she seemed that night.

The death of an older person is always sad, because it is the equivalent of the destruction of a library….the sum total of their life experiences irretrievably gone in an instant. With Barbara it is particularly sad, because with her death on April 12, the Lusitania passed from “living” to “archival” history. Now, there is no one left from aboard the ship who can remember the disaster. It is gone.

Barbara was an exceptionally fortunate woman. Almost no one under the age of three survived the disaster, and had her mother, Emily, been a few steps faster or slower that afternoon, it is all but certain that Barbara’s life would have ended May 7, 1915. When in the presence of this remarkably gentle person, who owed the last 93 years of her life to the one in a million chance of being in exactly the right spot at the right moment, I occasionally wondered how the other 1,198 stories would have played out had things gone differently that day, and had sobering insight into just how ugly and brutal the Lusitania affair truly was.

I think that the best source of consolation for those who knew her, is that she was a True Believer. For Barbara, death was not an end, but a beginning- a transition- a step into life eternal. On one of the few occasions we spoke of death, she said that she did not fear it, and that she looked forward to meeting with her mother again. And, I have no doubt that when the time came, it WAS Emily who came for her; either in spirit or as the last merciful gesture of a dying mind shutting down. She loved her mother most of all; was certain that Emily was the one person who loved her unconditionally, and despite the passage of 91 years, missed her. And now they are together again.

In closing, I’ll say that we as a group, have lost a great friend this week. But, so many of you made her final ten years special, and you can be proud of that….she’d be the first person to say it! Cliff; Mike; Shelley; Mike; Bob; Tim….I must confess that behind your backs she’d say the nicest things. She recognized, and valued, all of you for the many kindnesses shown to her, and was not shy about articulating her love.


So, goodbye to a wonderful woman and a great friend…a free spirit who loved cats, people, her hymnal, and family-style restaurants. We love you and will always be grateful for the good times spent together.

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally a separate thread, has been moved to this pre-existing thread about Ms. McDermott's death and life. In addition, several formerly-loose threads about her have now been pulled together in this subtopic. MAB]
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Dear Friends,

With all that has been written above, I feel that the world is truly a much poorer place without Barbara McDermott. I have rarely met someone with as big a heart as Barbara, someone who had a smile and a big hug for everyone she met, someone who loved God and was so grateful and thankful that the Almighty delivered she and her mother out of the terrible events of 92 years ago. It is heartwarming to think that after the passage of almost a century, Barbara and her family are all back together.

We will never forget her.....
 
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Today's obituary in the New Haven Register, there is also a short article available on line at the newspaper web address.

MCDERMOTT, BARBARA W. In Wallingford, April 12, 2008 Barbara W. (Anderson) McDermott, 95, of Wallingford, formerly of Martin Rd., East Haven. Wife of the late Milton G. McDermott. Loving mother of George E. (Vivian) McDermott of Connellsville, PA and Elizabeth A. (James) DeLucia of Wallingford, grandmother of Lisa (Kevin) Karwatsky, David M. (Michelle) McDermott, James (Debbie) DeLucia, Jr., Paul E. (Terri) DeLucia and Lisa DeLucia and great-grandmother of Kyle Karwatsky, P.J. DeLucia and Michael DeLucia. Predeceased by a brother Richard P. Anderson. Barbara was a member of the Old Stone Church and their womens club, the Argonauts Dance Club and was a Lusitania survivor in 1915. Funeral services are Tuesday at 11:30am in Old Stone Church. Burial will be conducted privately in East Haven Cemetery. There are no calling hours. The family wishes to thank the staff of Skyview Health Care for their compassionate care. Memorial contributions may be made to Old Stone Church Restoration Fund 251 Main St. East Haven, 06512. CLANCY FUNERAL HOME 43 KIRKHAM AVE. EAST HAVEN in care of arrangements.
 

Mike Poirier

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It was an exceptionally sad day yesterday when Shelley and myself met with Bob Bracken and Mike Findlay to say goodbye to Barbara. Losing a dear friend like that, we agreed, is the same as losing a member of the family.

It was a beautiful day, with a bit of a breeze, when we arrived in East Haven. This town is one of the hidden secrets of New England. One can see why Barbara always talked about it.

The service was very simple and the family was in full attendance. The pastor knew Barbara quite well and the theme was Barbara's faith and love and her belief in being saved for great things. The Lusitania was used to show that. Favorite hymns were played, 'Amazing Grace' and 'How Great Thou Art' and psalm 23 was read.

Following the service, we took a trip to see certain points of Barbara's life, the cemetery office where she worked, her school, her house, and the cove that she loved to go to so much. We found these quite easily, as if guided by Barbara herself. She would have been quite pleased that she was the lead story on the front page of a major newspaper. As Shelley pointed out though, the press at large is more concerned with celebrity troubles than it is with the individual. I think any normal person would have preferred to read about the life of an amazing person, such as Barbara, then Britney spears out of control behavior.

It was a sad event, as was the loss of Miss Asplund, due to the realization that came to us as we attended both funerals that an end of an era had come. There will be many ways to continue the stories of Titanic, Lusitania, etc... However, some things will now fade into a pleasant memory. Memories of meeting and knowing people like Barbara, Marjorie, Robb, Frank Aks, Lou Pope, etc... And those memories will always bring smiles to the faces who do.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>I think any normal person would have preferred to read about the life of an amazing person, such as Barbara, then Britney spears out of control behavior.<<

AMEN to that, Rev'rnd Michael! Barbara and the others you mentioned lived through and were a part of times and events that were actually important!
 

Mike Poirier

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God help us, Michael, if US history school books 20 years from now start mentioning Britney and company over actual historical events. The sad thing, it might not be out of the realm of possibility.
 

Bruce B Chin

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Mar 19, 2005
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Thank you all for your kind comments on the late Barbara McDermott, whose passing I only learned of three weeks after it occurred on 12 April. Shelley, I have to thank you for your kindness in sharing a bit more of her story, particularly regarding the spoon, which I wasn't sure whether I had acquired via eBay. I understand the odds were quite slim, as a number of these still exist, but not many.

Personally, I never had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting this dynamic lady who I've only heard wonderful things about. However, I did have the pleasure of exchanging correspondence, of sorts, with her over the last year.

I've been a fan of maritime history ever since I was a child, eventually sketching the lovely ocean liners of a bygone age, including Lusitania. I obtained an address for Mrs. McDermott that I thought I would try with the intent of writing her and perhaps getting a touch of history that I'm always grateful for. I ultimately drew two pencil sketches of Lusitania sailing along in happier times (as I'd never dare depict the sinking for a survivor) and posted these to her, along with a lovely lithograph I requested her to sign. I wrote a warm letter commending, not just her survival, but how she overcame such loss of her mother and brother to build a great family.

I was pleasantly surprised and delighted when I received one pencil sketch back and the lithograph, both signed in large writing, along with an enclosed letter. Her great-grandson took the liberty to write me back and to thank me for the pencil sketch I gave to her as a gift. He indicated that Barbara's eyesight was failing at the time, but despite this, she still wanted to sign the sketch and lithograph, hence the large writing. I was so touched by this and was also warmed by his indication that my sketches were very much in line with the numerous photos he'd seen of the ship growing up. I had asked how I might express appreciation in my letter to Barbara and indicated that I was a US ex-pat living in England. Her great-grandson responded by saying she loved English tea. As a mark of immese gratitude, I posted a thank you card and a tin of tea from Harrod's, addressed to both Barbara and her great-grandson. I hope they received this and the Christmas card I posted as well.

Again, thank you for all your work in preserving the memory, not only of this great ship, but most importantly the stories of those who experienced it firsthand. Indeed, I'm not only saddened to learn of Barbara McDermott's passing, but also mournful that we've lost the last living memory of the disaster that has now passed into the realm of archival history. Let us be thankful for what she has given and remember her for her great gifts as a person.
 
Jun 10, 1999
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A wonderful article appeared in the Daily Courier (Connellsville, PA); 03/23/2009

-Titled-

BULLSKIN MAN RECALLS MOTHER'S SURVIVAL AFTER SINKING OF LUSITANIA

The article heads with: "She was not quite 3 years old, but George McDermott's mother, Barbara Anderson McDermott, never forgot the sinking of the Lusitania".

END QUOTE-

I located the two-page article via EBSCO and hope you enjoy it as I have.

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
Jun 10, 1999
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ADDENDUM Quote from article: "Mother did not remember the concussion from the blast," McDermott said. "She remembers eating dinner, then there was great chaos. She had a spoon in her hand. It said 'Lusitnaia" on the handle. She took it with her".

Years ago Eric Sauder sent me a photocopy of a similar spoon, and I frequently see them on E-Bay. Does a list member know of the wherabouts of the McDermott spoon? Perhaps donated to THS or a museum of the like or possibly in good hands with family survivors?

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Barbara left the spoon behind when she returned to the US, in December 1919, aboard the Mauretania. Her sole Lusitania relic was her gold locket. She also had a doll and carriage her mother gave her on the last Christmas before her death by tuberculosis, and some items from her Mauretania voyage.

The spoon would have been disposed of when the estate of her Pybus grandparents was broken up.

Just before Barbara's final illness, Mike was able to put her in touch with the daughter of Assistant Purser Harkness, the man who saved her in 1915 and who she always wished she could meet. That was a very nice moment, and one that she enjoyed in private. We can be happy that, thanks to Mike, Barbara had one final pleasant surprise before her health declined.
 
Jun 10, 1999
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Thank you Mr. Kalafus for the reply...it is a shame that the spoon "got away". What spendid provenance it bears...I just hope it ended up in the hands of a proper caretaker.

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
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