Obituary of Winnifred Van Tongereloo


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Mrs. Winnifred Quick VanTongerloo on 4 July 2002, at the Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. Mrs. VanTongerloo, aged 98, was one of four remaining survivors of the 1912 Titanic sinking, and lived in a retirement home in East Lansing, Michigan. 

Winnifred Quick was born in Plymouth, Devon, England, on 23 January 1904, and was the eldest daughter of Frederick Charles and Jane (Richards) Quick. In 1910, Fred Quick emigrated to the United States and settled in Detroit, where he worked as a plasterer. In early 1912, Fred sent passage money back home to his family in England so they could join him. Jane Quick originally booked passage for herself and her daughters, Winnifred (aged 8) and Phyllis (aged 2), on another vessel, but owing to the coal strike in England, the intended ship was cancelled. They received word that their reservations had been transferred to the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, then the world’s largest and most luxurious ocean liner. However, when Jane Quick heard of the change, she was unhappy with the arrangement and made another trip to the shipping office to complain. “I don’t want to sail on a new ship,” she said. “I want one that has been tested.” “Don’t worry,” the agent laughed. “The Titanic is new, and she certainly can’t sink.” Somewhat reassured, Jane and her daughters took the train from Plymouth to Southampton and boarded the new White Star liner on 10 April 1912.

Winnifred well remembered her voyage on the Titanic. In later years, Winnifred wrote that during the trip the odor of the freshly painted cabin was nauseating, and she remembered being seasick a good deal of the time. As a result, Mrs. Quick kept their stateroom door ajar to allow fresh air from the hallway into the room. Winnifred, in later years, said, “I am always asked what it was like on the ship. Unfortunately, I can’t recall details but I remembered sitting on a deck chair and walking on the deck. There was a stairway leading from our cabin to the upper deck.” Researchers believe the Quick family, who were second-class passengers aboard the Titanic, occupied a stateroom on F-deck.
On the night of the sinking, Jane Quick and her daughters retired early and were asleep when Titanic struck the iceberg. The shock of the collision didn’t disturb them, but eventually Jane was awakened by a woman in the next cabin who had called out the news of the accident. Later, a steward knocked on the Quicks’ stateroom door and told Jane, “For God’s sake, get up. Don’t stop to dress. Put your lifebelts on — the ship has struck an iceberg and is sinking!” 

Jane immediately sprang into action and dressed the girls. Hurriedly, she fastened a small chain around her neck to which was attached a small gold purse containing four English sovereigns. She also remembered a tiny tin box that contained a small leaf bearing a message that her husband had pinpricked into it: “I love you.” As they left the cabin, Jane carried Phyllis in one hand, and led Winnifred by the other. On deck, young Winnifred’s only fear was when someone placed a life jacket over her shoulders. The young girl thought she was going to be thrown overboard into the water and began to scream with fright. Crewmen helped Jane and the girls into lifeboat 11, one of the last to leave the ship and one of the very few boats filled to capacity. Winnifred remembered being “literally tossed into the boat and losing my slippers during the ordeal.” 

Soon after leaving Titanic, baby Phyllis fell back asleep, and a calmer Winnifred sat near a German woman who offered to share her large coat with the young girl to keep her warm. The occupants of boat 11 watched Titanic slowly slip beneath the waves shortly thereafter. In recalling the events of long ago, Winnifred VanTongerloo stated in 1987, “I remember seeing the boat sinking, the lights going out and hearing the engines and the screams. I was crying most of the time but I suddenly stopped after the cries started to die away. I said to my mother ‘I am not afraid any more. I asked God and He said we’re going to be saved.’ ”

As morning dawned, Winnifred re-membered seeing the Carpathia coming into view. “My sister and I were lifted in burlap sacks to the deck of the rescue ship. My mother was strapped to a special chair and pulled on board.” Jane and the girls slept on bunks deep inside the now-overcrowded rescue ship. “I remember the dead were put on a plank and then the sailors slid them into the water. We stood around and prayed,” Winnifred recalled almost seventy-five years later.

Arriving in New York on Carpathia, Jane and the girls were met by Fred Quick, who had traveled from Detroit to meet them. “He was so worried,” Mrs. VanTongerloo remembered. “He had no way of knowing if we survived or not.” After spending the first night in New York City, the reunited Quick family headed home to the Midwest. 
In the weeks following the Quicks’ arrival in Detroit, Jane would spend many months giving interviews about the Titanic to a local vaudeville show in different towns and cities throughout Michigan. Eight times a day, Jane, young Winnifred and little Phyllis mounted the stage. Wearing the same skirt in which she was saved from the Titanic, Jane spoke about her ordeal to all those eager to hear her story. The appearances paid fairly well and at least replaced some of their losses that went down with the Titanic. Jane Quick did attempt to settle her losses and filed a $3,190 claim against the White Star Line for the loss of “money, tailor made costumes, cutlery, old fashioned china, jewelry, clothes and even doctor’s expenses me and my daughters caused through shock and ex-posure, including the fact that I and my eldest daughter have not been the same in health ever since.” 

As time passed, and interest in the Titanic began to subside, the Quicks resumed their lives. Fred and Jane went on to become the parents of two more daughters, Vivian (born in 1916) and Virginia (born in 1918), and continued to live quietly in Detroit.
Winnifred’s sister, Phyllis, worked for a telephone company until her marriage to William Austin Murphy, of Detroit. The couple had four children. On 15 March 1954, Phyllis Quick Murphy died tragically in Detroit at the age of 44.
Jane Quick lived out the rest of her life in the Detroit area. Following the tragic loss of her daughter Phyllis in 1954, and after the death of her husband, Fred, in 1959, Jane went to live with one of her daughters in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. On 24 February 1965, Jane Quick died at the age of 86. 

Winnifred dropped out of school at an early age and went to work in a chocolate factory, and later a bakery. When she was 14, she met Alois VanTongerloo, a young carpenter, who was five years older than she. The young Belgian, who had also emigrated to the United States in 1912, fell for young Winnifred but decided to wait a few years before asking for her hand in marriage. After courting, they married in 1923 and even-tually became the parents of three sons and two daughters. The VanTongerloos visited every state in the Union with the exception of Hawaii during their long married life together. Winnifred wrote that to reach the island state of Hawaii she would have to cross another large ocean and she was determined not to take any chances — even by plane. Alois passed away on 26 August 1987.

Winnifred never forgot her Titanic experience, and through the years maintained a mild interest in the subject. She still retained some physical remembrances of that cold April night, including the four gold sovereigns her mother wore in the purse around her neck during the sinking, the matchbox that held her father’s leaf of love to her mother, and a White Star Line flag that she and her sister had played with aboard Titanic. She answered letters from all over the world when the ship was discovered in 1985, signed many autographs and was obliging to newspaper reporters seeking an anniversary story over the years. Yet, Winnifred Quick VanTongerloo was also one of more elusive survivors of the last two decades. Unlike some of her fellow sur-vivors who were still living, she turned down many opportunities to attend Titanic conventions, survivor reunions and other social gatherings, largely because she feared flying and didn’t want to attend functions in distant locations. In the comfort and safety of her residence in Warren, Michigan, Winnifred felt most at home. She never sought to speak publicly about the subject of Titanic, but was always obliging to those who wrote and expressed an interest. 

In 1995, Winnifred moved from Warren to a retirement center in East Lansing where she would live for the rest of her life. As she aged into her nineties, Winnifred’s eyesight began to fail but her mind remained sharp. She rarely spoke of Titanic anymore, and given her advanced age, she and family members dissuaded the general public from speaking to her about it as doing so brought back many painful memories.

When she was more active, Winnifred Quick VanTongerloo told a newspaper reporter back in 1987 that “Every year my mother was always interviewed and we thought, ‘Here we go again.’ But I realize now more than ever that the Titanic is something never to be forgotten.”
With Winnifred’s passing on 4 July, three Titanic survivors remain: Miss Lillian Asplund, in Massachusetts, Mrs. Barbara West Dainton,, in England, and Miss Millvina Dean, also of England.

Mrs. VanTongerloo is survived by a son, two daughters, 9 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and 5 great-great grand-children. The Titanic International Society expresses its deepest sympathy to Mrs. Winnifred VanTongerloo’s family, par-ticularly her daughter, Jeanette Happel, a member of our organization.(TIS) Memorial contributions in memory of Mrs. Van-Tongerloo were sent to the Burcham Hills Foundation, 2700 Burcham Drive, East Lansing, Michigan 48823. 

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2006) Obituary of Winnifred Van Tongereloo (Voyage, ref: #21723, published 11 August 2006, generated 25th July 2021 03:15:42 AM); URL :