Mr Mubārik Sulaymān Abī Āsī Ḥannā was born in Hardīn, Lebanon on 10 April 1885. He was the son of John Simeon Āsī and Mary Anthony 1 and had four known siblings 2: Simon (b. 1884), Alex (b. 1888), Rose (b. 1892) and Minnie (b. 1893).
Mr Ḥannā, a farmhand in his native Lebanon, boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a third class passenger (ticket number 2663 which cost £7, 4s, 7d) and was travelling with a large group from Hardīn, including several cousins. Other members of the group included Mr and Mrs Antūn Yazbak; Mrs Amīnah Mubārik and her sons; Thamīn Tannūs and Būlus Ḥannā-Dīb, among others.
He was headed to Port Huron, Michigan to the home of Hanna Āsī (Hassey), 1119 11th Avenue. At least two siblings had already crossed the Atlantic, with his brother Simon living in Michigan (reportedly Port Huron) since 1906. A sister, Rose (Mrs Peter Simon) had emigrated in 1911 and lived in Pennsylvania.
On the night of the sinking Mubārik was asleep in his cabin and seemingly slept through the impact. A cousin woke him, telling him that she ship had shuddered and was now sinking. Hurriedly dressing and stuffing his bare feet into shoes, Mubārik left his few possessions and what money he had and hastened from his cabin.
Knowing very little English, Ḥannā managed to scale his way to the upper decks, noting that the sea was calm and the air very cool. Around him people were shouting and he also witnessed a large number of people in prayer.
Accounts of how Ḥannā survived vary. One account states that he stepped into a lifeboat that was almost already full, seemingly without much opposition (believed to have been lifeboat 15). Another account (from the Times Herald, 1938) gave him a much more dramatic exit:
"I tried to get into the first lifeboat they lowered, but the crew and officers beat me and knocked me back. The same thing happened with the second boat. I saw a woman with a baby in her arms. She was screaming for help--for someone to save her baby. I took it and pushed my way to the rail and help the mother and baby get on the lifeboat...
A rich man was offering large sums of money to get saved. Many people were drinking to make the last moments of their lives easier to bear... I was afraid, I didn't know what to do. I prayed to the Lord and decided to take a chance. I jumped 30 feet in the direction of the lifeboat, which was filled with 30 women and children. Someone shot at me and the bullet grazed the back of my head...
I landed on the head of a woman in the boat; there was only one other man in it. He was rowing. The man tried to put me out but I held on to the seat.
An American woman spoke to the man. He let go of me and let me stay there. Just after I got into the boat, another man came swimming toward us. The man in our boat shot him right in the middle of the forehead as he put his hand up to grasp the side of the boat."
In New York he was reportedly met by a brother who had travelled from Port Huron to meet him. Following treatment in St Vincent's Hospital he would travel to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania with Thamīn Tannūs and her son As'ad where he would spend time with friends and relatives before heading to Michigan. Whilst here he and Mrs Tannūs were interviewed by a local paper.
He was married in Croswell, Sanilac, Michigan on 9 September 1912 3 to Hanna Hassey's daughter, Elizabeth Āsī (Hassey) 4 (b. 23 May 1891), also a Lebanese migrant, but the couple had no children. In America they were members of St Stephen's Catholic Church and Mubārik Anglicised his name to Bert Johns 5.
Bert worked for several years in industrial plants before he and his wife operated a fruit store in Marlette, Michigan before moving the business to Quay Street in Port Huron. For 15 years he operated a public house, Bert's Tavern on 622 Walter Street, also in Port Huron.
The 1930 census shows he and his wife as resident of 333 Clairmont, Port Huron and at 218 Broad Street by the time of the 1940 census. Bert would live on Broad Street for the rest of his life, later at number 216.
Bert died at his home, 216 Broad Street, Port Huron on 2 February 1952 aged 66. His widow Lizzie later died in February 1970 and they are buried together in Mt Hope Cemetery in Port Huron.
Articles and Stories
Port Huron Times Herald (1952)
Newark Star (1912)
Michael A. Findlay
- Parents’ names are in dispute. In 1912 documentation his parents’ names are given as Mr and Mrs Coula Hannah. His death certificate gives the names as Simon and Rose Johns, whilst his marriage record states the names as John Simeon Hassey and Mary Anthony
- His obituary lists his surviving siblings as Mrs Peter (Rose) Simon and Mrs Peter (Minnie) George of Kingston, Pennsylvania and brothers Simon and Alex Johns of Hardīn.
- Date as per Michigan County marriages 1820-1940; his obituary gives the date as 16 July 1912.
- Elizabeth was the daughter of Hanna and Margaret Āsī (1856-1931).
- Most often listed as Johns, also referred to as Bert John in other documentation. His headstone has the "John" spelling.
References and SourcesPort Huron Times Herald, 3rd February, 1952, Obituary
Michigan Department of Health Certificate of Death
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
Michael A. Findlay (1998) Revised Passenger List in Judith Geller Titanic: Women and Children First. Haynes. ISBN 1 85260 594 4
List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer At Port Of Arrival (Date: 18th-19th June 1912, Ship: Carpathia) - National Archives, NWCTB 85 T715 Vol 4183
Marriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)
Times Herald (unknown date, 1962): Widow Recalls Spouse's Escape from Titanic.