Miss Bertha Lehmann was born on 31 March 1895 in Lotzwil, Kanton Bern, Switzerland.
She was the daughter of Johann Lehmann and Elise Kupferschmied and had three known siblings, Friedrich (b. 1885), Marie (1889-1926, later Mrs Charles Karl Zumbrunnen) and Ida (later Sägesser).
She lived in Bern with her family and worked as a waitress.
Bertha received a second class ticket from her brother and sister Friedrich and Marie who already lived in the USA; it was planned that she would travel around May-time but she wanted to surprise her siblings and decided to travel earlier to Central City, Iowa.
She boarded the Titanic as a second class passengers at Cherbourg; her ticket was provided by the agent Im Obersteg of Basel for 330 Swiss francs (number SC 1748, which cost £12).
She left her home on Easter Sunday and was accompanied by her father to the railway station at Basel. He kissed her good-bye and said: "I suppose, I won't see you again." He also related some premonitions saying, "Bertha, every time you come along with me I have some sort of bad luck, and I feel now like something is going to happen to you."
The next morning Bertha was in Paris and left that town by train around midday. Around midnight on 9 April she was at Cherbourg. The Titanic stopped at Cherbourg the following evening and she boarded. Whilst aboard occupied a starboard-cabin.
From the onset of the voyage Bertha became seasick and remained confined to her cabin until Saturday. On that day she felt better and took her meal at the dining saloon and at her table sat Michel Navratil with his two children. After dinner Navratil bade her to keep an eye on his two young sons; unbeknownst to her Navratil had abducted the children from his estranged wife. That evening she wrote letters in the library and finally went to her room.
On the night of Sunday 14 April Bertha retired to her cabin around 11.30 and briefly read in bed before settling into a light sleep. She likened the impact to a train "grinding to a very sudden stop." Startled by the collision she looked through the porthole and saw nothing but stars and thus returned to bed. Loud voices in the adjacent cabin made her nervous so she dressed and went outside. She met Roger Bricoux of the ship's orchestra who told her she had to fetch her coat as all passengers had to change to another steamer. He helped Bertha to put on her life-preserver and led her to the Boat-Deck.
She entered a lifeboat (possibly boat 12) which was lowered at 1.30 am and she recalled hearing three loud reports and then saw the ship break apart.
After arriving in New York she was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital. A few days later she travelled to her sister at Central City, Iowa. From the American Red Cross she received clothing and $50. Whilst recovering in St Vincent's Hospital she was photographed by the New York media with other Francophone passengers; Mathilde Weisz, Antoinine and André Mallett, and Juliette Laroche and her two daughters Louise and Simonne. She arrived at the home of her sister days later.
In Cedar Rapids on 12 August 1913 Bertha married John Rudolph Zimmerman (b. 14 June 1887). Zimmerman, a farm labourer and carpenter, was born in Prairieburg, Iowa to Swiss parents Rudolph Zimmerman and Bertha Maeder.
Bertha and John settled in Prairieburg and their son Elmer Edward was welcomed on 21 March 1914. The marriage later disintegrated sometime prior to 1917 and Bertha moved to be with her sister in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. John Zimmerman was sent to the battlefields in France and died on 12 November 1918 as a result of injuries sustained earlier.
In 1917 in North Dakota Bertha met and married Carl Luhrs (b. 9 September 1892), a dairy farmer and native of Jersey City, New Jersey born to German parents.
Initially settling in North Dakota Bertha and Carl had two children; son Wilhelm Johan1 was born on 6 May 1917 and daughter Ethel2 on 4 July 1919. They relocated to Pequot Lakes, Minnesota where they ran a farm and had several more children: Leone Lucile (b.1921)3, Elva Eleanora (b. 1926)4, Jimmie (1927-1927), Helen (1928-1928), Gloria Grace (1930-1930) and Pearl Alma (b. 1931)5.
Bertha was fated to outlive her siblings Friedrich and Marie. She and her family appear on the 1930 and 1940 censuses living in Home Brook Township in Cass, Minnesota. In the summer of 1965 she was gifted with a ticket to return by plane to Switzerland to be reunited with her sister Ida Sägesser-Lehmann at Lotzwil, their birthplace.
Bertha Lehmann Luhrs died at St. Joseph's Hospital, Brainerd, Minnesota on 5 December 1967 as a result of heart failure; she was buried at Wildwood Cemetery, Pillager, Minnesota. Her widower Carl Luhrs died on 1 January 1978 aged 85.
Her son from her first marriage, Elmer died aged 97 on 16 June 2011 in North Manchester, Indiana.
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