Oldest known living survivor of the Titanic disaster

Oldest known living survivor of the Titanic disaster

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Mrs. Mary Davies Wilburn, the oldest known living survivor of the Titanic disaster.

Mrs. Wilburn, who was 104, died on July 29, 1987 at the Community General Hospital in Syracuse, New York.  For the past eight years, she was a resident at the Loretto Geriatric Center in Syracuse.

Miss Mary Davies was born on May 17, 1883 in London, England. In April, 1912 she booked second-class passage on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. She was travelling to the United States for the first time to visit her sister and brother-in-law.

On the night of the sinking, Mary Davies and her roommate were awakened by the collision with the iceberg. Clad only in a night-gown and shawl, she quickly climbed to the boat deck. When she arrived there, she saw a large group of people wearing lifebelts. She returned to her cabin and buckled one on herself.

When she reached the boat deck for the second time, she saw her roommate being helped into lifeboat number 13. The boat started to lower before she could get into it. A man standing beside her quickly picked her up and dropped her into the boat.

Mary Davis said she could not forget the screams of the dying passengers as the ship slowly sank. She remembered helping a poor steerage woman with her two small children. For most of the night, she held a baby while its mother cared for the other.

Three years after the disaster, Mary Davies met and married John Wilburn, an American sailor who served in the Navy during World War I, he later operated a hardware store in Tottenville, Staten Island, New York.  In later years, the couple moved to Syracuse, where they raised one son.

When Mr. Wilburn died in 1972, an alert reporter discovered Mrs. Wilburn with her Titanic experience. It was very difficult to discuss for she only related painful memories of that cold April night.  In recent years, she gave more frequent interviews but she would suffer unpleasant nightmares for the rest of her life as a result.

Mrs. Wilburn was an Honour Member of the Titanic Historical Society. With her passing, the oldest known living survivor is Mrs. Marjorie Newell Robb, of Massachusetts. Mrs. Wilburn always said she thanked God for being a survivor. ''I'm glad to be alive,'' she once told me, ''and that God spared me. I could just have easy have not been saved.''

Related Biographies:

Mary Ann Charlotte Davis

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