Master Jirjis Yūsuf Tu'mah

Master Jirjis Yūsuf Tu'mah (George Youssef, Georges Touma, George Thomas) was born in Tibnīn, al-Janub, Lebanon on 9 February 1904 1.

He was the son of Darwīsh Tu'mah (b. 1870), an onion farmer, and Hinnah Yūsuf Rāzī (b. 1885). He had one sibling, his elder sister Mariyam (b. 1902).

In 1905 his father Darwīsh left Lebanon and settled in Silver Creek, Michigan where he worked on a farm, saving enough money to buy his own farm in Dowagiac and send for his wife and children. The journey started for Jirjis, his mother and sister around February 1912 when he and other villagers left their village by camel caravan to Beirut on the coast where they journeyed by freighter to Marseille. From that port in France they journeyed to Cherbourg by train where they boarded the Titanic on 10 April as third class passengers (ticket number 2650 which cost £15, 4s, 11d). Aboard ship Jirjis and his sister spent hours running up and down passages and stairwells and playing in nearby vacant cabins.

On the night of the sinking Jirjis had been put to bed by his mother but his sister remained missing and his anxious mother waited at their cabin door for her return and it was then that the accident occurred. Several men informed her that the ship was in danger but that they had been instructed to stay in their cabins and pray. His mother hurriedly dressed him and they headed to the upper decks where she stood him near a lifeboat and told him not to move whilst she retreated back to her cabin in search of his missing sister who, thankfully, was located. Returning, Jirjis' mother found him in the same spot but very anxious as several people had tried to get him into a lifeboat without her. The family later left the ship, possibly in collapsible C and whilst in the lifeboat Jirjis later related that the ship, in her final throes, stood out of the water before settling back and finally sinking which was followed by the grim sound of the cries of those struggling in the water.

Upon reaching New York Jirjis, his mother and sister were taken to St Vincent's Hospital for recuperation following which they headed to Dowagiac, Michigan. Although his father was aware that his family were coming to the USA, he had no idea that they were journeying on Titanic and was surprised when he received a telegram from his wife.

Jirjis and his family settled in Dowagiac and later anglicised their names to Thomas and Jirjis became George and he gained a further three siblings: Sam (1913-1997), Francis (1914-1965) and Joseph (1916-1995).

He was married to a woman named Rose (b. circa 1910 in Indiana; d. 1997) in 1926 and the couple had three children: Emily (b. 1927, later Mrs Howard Stites), Joseph (1928-2008) and Beatrice (1933-2003, later Furqueron). The family continued to live with George's parents for a number of years in Flint, Michigan. What became of his marriage to Rose is not clear and it seems they were later separated and divorced. George was remarried on 22 March 1936 to Dorothy Lucille Lane, née Pickett (b. 3 August 1916 in Terre Haute, Indiana) and they had a son, George (1936-2007), later in the year. Dorothy had previously been married to an English man, Roy Stanley Lane (b. 1913).

George later ran a grocery store that he had purchased from his uncle Ilyās Rāzī and his father and brothers assisted him in the business which later expanded into a supermarket. He sold the store to his brothers in the 1940s and he purchased another smaller store before retiring from the grocery trade in 1948 and entering the real estate investment business from which he retired in 1970.

In later years he was called upon frequently by local media to give his account of the sinking and he did so up until the end of his life. He recalled his awe of the ship and its splendour and how he and his sister would pass their days playing in vacant cabins and stairwells and how the sight of the sinking ship and the terrible cries that followed it never left him. In 1982, and despite being wheelchair-bound, he joined several other Titanic survivors at a convention of the Titanic Historical Society, of which he was a member, in Philadelphia.

George Thomas continued to live in Burton, Flint, Michigan and was a member of the Davison Lodge #236, The Bay City Consistory and the Elf Khurafeh Shriners. His son George was Burton's first mayor from 1972 to 1976.

George was widowed when his wife Dorothy died on 31 October 1991. He himself did not live long past the death of his wife and he passed away on 9 December 1991 aged 87. He was buried in Crestwood Cemetery, Grand Blanc, Michigan.

In 2008 his son Joseph Thomas published the story of his family's experience on the Titanic and their life thereafter, "Grandma Survived the Titanic." He died in August that same year in Genesee, Michigan.

Notes

  1. His marriage record gives his year of birth as 1908.
 

Pictures

George Thomas in 1986
Arizona Republic  (1986) 
GEORGE THOMAS IN 1986
 

Articles and Stories

Flint Journal (1991) 
(1991) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Guest (R17) said:

    Hello. How old was George Thomas when the Titanic sank. I was reading about a 'Night To Remember Book' he had written in and and he writes he was at age 4 ? But he was born in 1908 ? *Illustrated, hardcover edition of A Night to Remember copyright 1976 with dust jacket. Autograph of Titanic survivor G. Thomas reads: “George Thomas Jr. Survivor of the RMS Titanic, Captain Smith himself put me in the No. 2 life Boat at the age 4 April 15, 1912.” Walter Lord, the author, wrote “Best Wishes to George Thomas, Walter Lord.” Very good condition with only slight wear around the edges.... Read full post

  2. mary mason said:

    here's his Et bio

  3. Guest (R17) said:

    Thanks but why does he write in this water lord book and say he was age 4 ? It's the book from the G. Auction in June.

  4. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    An imperfect memory perhaps? Confusion? There could be all kinds of reasons for that. I'd just chalk it up to one of those curiousities that come with the study of history. Even the players in the drama we take an interest in don't always get it right.

  5. Guest (R17) said:

    Yes ! I'm not familiar with him as a survivor so maybe he was getting on a bit and mistaken. For all I know there could have been a whole group of people asking him to sign things hence this could have been written rather quickly in order to get onto the next person. I read his obituary on Titanica, but can’t find any off his accounts of the sinking ?

  6. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    >>I read his obituary on Titanica, but can’t find any off his accounts of the sinking ?

  7. Guest (R17) said:

    Well I hope they exist but if they don't then they don't. I understand/agree the 2 out of 3 Titanic survivors today also not wanting anything to do with the Titanic for the reasons you said.Having said that he seemed willing to sign books on the subject and at a public functions ( I assume ) as Water Lord was there. This gives me the impression that it was a public Titanic function maybe. So maybe his accounts do exist . I would write to T.H.S and ask but there would be no point - they are very busy. I find it interesting that he says captain smith put him in a life boat.

  8. Paul Lee said:

    Did any of the Thouma family give interviews about their escape? I know George Thomas was very popular at THS conventions before he passed away but I don't have any of his interview notes to hand. Cheers Paul --

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
David Bronson, USA
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA
Leila Salloum Elias, USA

References and Sources

Dowagiac Daily News, May 3, 1912, Article
State of Michigan Department of Public Health Certificate of Death
Flint Journal
, December 11, 1991, Obituary
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
South Bend Tribune, 13 February, 1998, Titanic Recollections
Leila Saloum Elias (2011) The Dream and then the Nightmare: the Syrians who boarded the Titanic; Atlas, ISBN 978-9933-9086-1-4
Thomas, Joseph L. (2008) Grandma Survived the Titanic, ISBN 1425921922
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2020) Jirjis Yūsuf Tu'mah Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1270, updated 26th February 2020 04:55:42 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/georges-youssef-george-thomas-touma.html