Mr Theodoor (Theodore) De Mulder, 30, was born in Nederhasselt, Belgium on 15th September, 1881. Growing up in Aspelare, Belgium, he was a farmer and in 1907 had married Jeanette D'Hondt. The couple had two children. The poor living conditions drove Theodore to journey to America to work as a farm hand for the sugar beet season near Detroit, Michigan.
He boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number 345774, £9 10s).
Theodore was one of four Belgian men who would survive the sinking. According to him, he reached the Boat Deck with Jean Scheerlinckx and Jules Sap. All three would later give numerous and conflicting accounts of how they survived so it remains unclear just how they left the Titanic. All later claimed to have jumped into the sea and were rescued by passing lifeboats. Theodore himself told how he was rescued after clinging to a chair he had thrown into the sea. More than likely, much of the evidence seems to indicate that all three men left together in either boats 11, 13 or 15 since a large percentage of third class men escaped in these boats. Sap had mentioned years later that several women had hid him under their skirts - an action that would not have taken place aboard one of the two collapsibles that floated free of the ship.
After his rescue, De Mulder joined his friends Sap and Scheerlinckx in a travelling road show. When they lost all their promised money (see Scheerlinckx), the American Red Cross assisted him. De Mulder received $300.00 with the notation that he had "a wife and two young children, as well as a dependent aged father and mother-in-law in Belgium." He had lost all his baggage and money which was valued at $200.00.
With the exception of William DeMessemaeker, Theodore DeMulder would remain in the United States the longest of all the Belgians. He made it to Detroit and found a job with the Ford Motor Company but left a few years later to take up farming in Canada. In 1921, Theodore was finally reunited with his wife and two sons (their arrival had been further delayed because of the World War). Three other children were later born in the U.S.
The Great Depression of 1929 hit the De Mulders hard and they returned to Belgium in 1931. De Mulder had become an American citizen but decided to remain in Belgium. He and his family settled back down in their hometown of Aspelare. De Mulder turned his home into a "roadside cafe" and named it "In den TITANIC. ("In the Titanic). He then paid a visit to Mrs Marie Van de Velde, whose husband, Johannes, had perished in the sinking.
The "Titanic" cafe was demolished in 1951 when the road was widened and a new house built.
Theodore De Mulder died on 19th April, 1954 at the age of 72. Two of his five sons still live in the United States, two in Canada and his son Edmond in the family home at Aspelare.
In 1912, Mrs De Mulder had erected a cross to thank God for having saved her husband and to honor the memory of those who perished from Denderhoutem. The cross still stands in Aspelare.
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
Herman De Wulf and Michael A. Findlay (1998) The Belgians and the Titanic. Voyage. #27
Herman DeWulf, Belgium
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Georges Picavet, Belgium
Kassandra Picavet, Belgium
Articles and Stories
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