Miss Gretchen Fiske Longley was born in Hudson, Columbia, New York on 1 September 1890.
She was the only daughter of New York natives Levi Fiske Longley (b. 1850), a lawyer, and Mary Deare Andrews (b. 1850).
Her mother died in 1892 and by the time of the 1900 census she and her father were living with her maternal grandparents Robert Emmet Andrews (1819-1901) and Matilda Scudder Fonda (1821-1911) and her extended family in Hudson, New York. She was living at the home of her aunt Cornelia Andrews by the time of the 1905 census, her father having died in 1902. She was educated in Boston Ladies' School.
Gretchen boarded the Titanic in Southampton under ticket number 13502 which cost £77. She was travelling with her maternal aunts Cornelia Andrews and Anna Hogeboom. Miss Longley occupied cabin D-9. Gretchen opened a farewell letter when she arrived in her cabin; it was a good wish for every day of the voyage.
Tommies to burn
The curious note spells out "Gretchen".
On the night of the sinking Gretchen had been in her stateroom at the time of the impact. The shock drew her out into the corridor twice out of curiosity but she found everything quiet with seemingly no cause for alarm. Her aunt Cornelia was nervous however and it was at her insistence that the trio made their way up to the boat deck.
Gretchen and her aunts escaped in lifeboat 10. The lack of crewmen in the boat compelled Gretchen and other women, including at least one of the Fortune ladies, to assist in rowing.
Gretchen and her aunts eventually reached New York aboard Carpathia.
On 21 October 1913 Gretchen became a married woman. Her husband was Pennsylvania-born Dr Raymond Sylvester Leopold (b. 21 March 1884) who would later be an executive vice president of Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital, of which he was a graduate. The couple had three children: Gretchen (1914-2005, later Mrs Robert Hamilton), William (1917-1965) and Barbara (1920-2001, later Mrs William Walton) and made their home in Philadelphia. She was widowed when her husband died on 30 June 1957 and she lost her son at a young age in 1965.
Later a resident of the Emlen Arms, 6733 Emlen Street, Philadelphia, Gretchen had previously run an antique shop at 8127 Germantown Avenue, also in that city and continued to travel extensively, undeterred by her experiences on Titanic. It was on one such ocean-going voyage aboard SS Constitution whilst cruising in the Mediterranean that Gretchen passed away aged 74 on 11 August 1965. She was buried with her husband in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Coincidentally, her daughter Barbara passed away in California on 15 April 2001.
© Michael A. Findlay, USA