Winnifred Van Tongerloo and the EndallBeheall Book

For a long time I've been curious about the somewhat enigmatic oldest Titanic survivor, Winnie Van Tongerloo--who at 97 is living in Michigan. On Saturday afternoon, owing to the efforts and kindness of George Behe and Ray Lepien, I got to visit with her. I was sort of expecting to walk into a nursing home and find a very old, decrepit woman who was mostly non-communicative. Instead, when George and I walked in to her little "apartment"-there sat a nice looking, well-dressed little woman with her hair nicely done, a copy of "A Night To Remember" on her TV stand--and very eager to talk to us about everything from the epic to the mundane. In most ways, I left thinking that she is in as good shape as Millvina Dean and her mind is sharp and it was obvious that she can be very detailed if she wants to, and can go vague if she prefers. She mentioned once that she gets a lot of letters asking for her autograph, and with a wry smile then pointed toward her trash can. Once a week she goes downstairs (yes, walks under her own power with help from a walker) and plays bingo and if she wins she gets 25 cents with which she buys something chocolate- (was very glad to find out that, like me, she is a chocoholic).

It was also quite a highlight of the weekend to finally meet and visit with George Behe, and he was kind enough to show me an unbelievable collection of Titanic postcards--(apparently his wife Pat has had at least two callers telling her that when George dies, they want first crack at buying his collection.) It is really a crass world! But I really got my appetite whetted by getting a glimpse of George's notebook of Titanic letters that I hope will someday be published--(never before-seen stuff written by people like Kornelia Andrews, Charlotte Collyer, Jakob Birnbaum, and many others-- even some good ones written by the Titanic officers!). The whole day made me once again realize just how much more "good stuff" waits to be published and shared, and of course getting to meet and visit with two celebrities like Mr. Behe and Mrs. Van T. made it the "ultimate Titanic weekend."

Forgive my self-indulgence--couldn't resist sharing a bit of it all.


Karen Sweigart

Well I for one appreciate you sharing this experience Phil. That is one reason I love this board. I have not had any experiences, but I can live through the people who have telling me about them. Thanks!

What a great account. I've been waiting to hear something about this trip.

It's good to know Mrs. van Tongerloo is in such good condition. And I don't blame her for wanting her privacy. Being celebrated for surviving a disaster must be an odd thing indeed.

Good too to hear about George's collection. I have always imagined that if anybody has a collection to rival Don Lynch's that it might be George Behe. I believe a book of letters by these two would be a huge market success. I wish them all the best - and you too Phil with your own book which will be yet another bombshell on the Titanic literary front.


Philip Hind

Staff member
More likely twenty years, when NASA have developed a special glue to support the binding. I've seen the man's files!

Lars Lifvendahl

Hello Mr Gowan,
I'm glad Mrs. Van Tongerloo feels fine and you are a very lucky man who've got the opportunity to meet her personally! I didn't believe she was that interested in talking about the Titanic.
Until recently Marshall posters signed by her was on sell by the THS. Even though she is very old, do you think she will participate in any Titanic arrangements ever again?

yours truly,
Hi Lars,
Mrs. Van Tongerloo says she tired of giving interviews quite a long time before the movie even came out and I seriously doubt that we'll see her taking part in any Titanic shindigs. She did talk as if she regretted not participating in THS Conventions of the past but she always had a fear of flying and none were held in her general vicinity.

I posed the question to her about whether she had been inundated by people wanting to interview her and she said something to the effect that "it happens every April." The place where she lives takes steps to protect her from unwanted intruders and she appears to live a quiet and contented life and I'm sure she wants it that way.


Lars Lifvendahl

Hello Phil,
I can really understand she's tired of interviews at the age of 97!
Do you know where I could find her biography?