Mr Benoît Picard was born as Berk Trembiskey in Warsaw, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, on 27 November 1878 to Russian parents. Details about his early life are unknown.
He lived in France for a number of years, adopting the French name of Benoît Picard, before moving to England. He appeared on the 1911 census as a boarder living at 8 Newling Street, Bethnal Green, London and he was described as an unmarried Gladstone bag maker.
He boarded Titanic at Southampton as a third-class passenger (ticket number 392078 which cost £8, 1s) and was destined for San Francisco, California. His cabin was number 10 in the third-class section, possibly on F-deck.
On the night of the sinking Benoît had been asleep when he felt a slight shock. Curiosity drew himself and his cabin mates to get dressed and go out on deck to investigate. Later, when they attempted to return for their belongings, they found they could not return as the stewards would not allow them back. Benoît split away from the group he had been with and sought to make his way to the highest deck. He found his way to a door separating third and second-class and, finding it open, made his way into the second-class section, possibly a promenade area on B-deck, where he could find no people, so he climbed a ladder into the first-class section. Coming to the boat deck, Benoît saw the lifeboats being loaded. As no women were around the boat he was near he, and several other men, climbed into the boat (#9).
In the lifeboat, Berk had a conversation with one of the seamen, where he remarked, "I would rather be on the ship." The seaman laughed at him, and he said, "Do you not see we are sinking?" Benoît recalled, "I was rather excited, and I said, "It is fortunate that the sea is nice, but perhaps in five minutes we will be turned over."
Arriving in New York aboard Carpathia, Picard gave his next of kin as his sister Mrs Mary Eitingoff (?) of Kraskinsky Place, Moscow, Russia. His stated destination was to an unspecified address in San Francisco but it appears he did not go there immediately.
Following the disaster Benoît spent a time living in New York; on 11 May 1912 he declared his intention to become an American citizen and his home address at the time was listed as 332 Vernon Avenue, Brooklyn. He was described as being short in stature at only 5' 3" and he had brown hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion and weighed 177 lbs. Within a while he moved to San Francisco, California where he petitioned for naturalisation on 4 February 1919 and pledged his Oath of Allegiance on 8 July that year.
Benoît was never married and continued to deal in leather; his address at the time of the 1920 census was Mission Street, San Francisco. By 1940 he was listed as living at 222 Columbus Avenue in that city and was described as a clerk and gave his political affiliation as Democrat. He also worked as a night clerk in a hotel and later became the victim of a series of hold-ups:
ROBBERY SIX TIMES FAILS
Los Angeles, July 21--Joseph Kelch, of Fargo, N.D., shot twice through the body when, police said, he attempted to escape after holding up a hotel clerk, was in critical condition tonight.
He was booked on suspicion of robbery.
Night clerk Benoit Picard complained to police he had been robbed five times, of a total of $30, each time by the same man who walked into the hotel lobby.
Early today, when Kelch walked in, two detectives were waiting. Picard said Kelch ordered, "Hand it over," and the clerk replied, "What, you back again?"
When Detective Lieutenants Ralph Gaffney and Harry Rankin appeared, Kelch made a movement toward his pocket and they fired. Picard said Kelch was the man who committed the earlier holdups. - Santa Cruz Sentinel, 22 July 1939
Benoît Picard died on 25 May 1941 and was buried in Holy Cross Roman Catholic Cemetery in Colma, California.
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