A headstone for a heroic Titanic seaman has been unveiled in Jersey City. Robert John Hopkin s was honored last Sunday, alongside the four other survivors of the White Star Liner tragedy buried at Holy Name Cemetery.
Hopkins was an able-bodied seaman. During the evacuation of the Titanic First Officer Murdoch assigned Hopkins to lifeboat 13. The Belfast man was instrumental in cutting the ropes to free the boat, which coincidentally carried Delia McDermott and Elizabeth Dowdell (buried in the same cemetery) to safety.
Hopkins was born in Belfast, County Antrim, on November 30 1868, to John and Catherine McMullen Hopkins. He and fireman Fred Barrett were instrumental in cutting the falls to free boat 13 before it was crushed by boat 15, which was being lowered onto it from above.
Long before he got a spot on the Titanic Hopkins had emigrated to America, in 1900, with his wife, Annie Graham Hopkins. The couple lived in Manhattan where their two sons, Robert and James, were born. Following the untimely death of his wife, on February 3 1907, Hopkins returned his sons to family in Liverpool, England, where they were raised and educated.
Hopkins returned to the United States and lived in West New York, New Jersey, and later in nearby Hoboken . He was still living there in his later years. He worked as a stevedore on the docks until his death on November 17 1943.
For nearly 73 years the body of Robert John Hopkins has rested in an unmarked grave. Ealier this month a polished black granite headstone bearing his name was unveiled by his family and blessed by Bishop John W. Flesey, of the Archdiocese of Newark, during a ceremony that included prayers and a floral tribute to remember Hopkins and four other Titanic survivors buried at Holy Name Cemetery.
The headstone for Hopkins was commissioned and placed in his memory by the Titanic International Society and the Archdiocese of Newark, and with the assistance of Hopkins’ descendants.
The four other Titanic survivors buried at Holy Name Cemetery are Margaret Delia Devaney , Elizabeth Dowdell , Thomas Joseph McCormack , and Bridget Delia McDermott .
Members of the Titanic International Society followed also visited the Titanic survivors' graves after the ceremony. They paid their respects and placed flowers on the graves. They also unveiled Thomas McCormack’s newly inscribed family headstone.
Margaret Delia Devaney
Margaret Delia Devaney (20) boarded the Titanic as a third-class passenger at Queenstown (now Cobh ), intending to settle in New York City, where her brother and two sisters lived.
Devaney was rescued by Collapsible C and loaned her pocketknife to the seaman in charge to enable him to cut the oars free.
She was born on May 15 1891 in Kilmacowan , near Ballysodare , in County Sligo , to John and Margaret Gunning Devaney . After the Titanic experience she worked as a domestic in Manhattan until her marriage to John Joseph O’Neill , in 1919, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They relocated to Jersey City, where they raised four children. After the death of her husband in 1960, Margaret moved to Clifton, NJ where she passed away on June 12, 1974. She was 83 years old.
Elizabeth Dowdell (31) of Union Hill, NJ, boarded Titanic at Southampton. She was employed as a nurse to six-year-old Virginia Ethel Emanuel, whom she was escorting to Virginia’s grandparents’ home in New York City.
Elizabeth had been born on September 6, 1880 in West Hoboken , NJ, to Matthew and Alice Carey Dowdell . She and her young charge were rescued in lifeboat 13, along with Hopkins and McDermott . She later worked as a domestic for several wealthy families in Manhattan until her marriage to Harry Fierer on February 23 1933. She passed away in the Bronx on November 16 1962. She was 82.
Thomas Joseph McCormack
Thomas Joseph McCormack was born on December 11 1892 in Glenmore , County Longford , to Bernard and Maria McKenna McCormack . He boarded Titanic, at 19 years of age, at Queenstown . He was a third-class passenger. He was returning to his home in Bayonne, NJ, following a visit with his elderly parents in Ireland. Accompanying Thomas were his two cousins, John and Philip Kiernan .
McCormack survived after immersion in the freezing water, but lost his two cousins. After his rescue, he returned to Bayonne, where he worked as a bartender. He served during World War I and received a Purple Heart.
Following the war, he married Mary Ellen Donovan, but they had no children. After the death of his wife in 1962, he retired to Elizabeth, NJ, where he lived with his nephew during the last years of his life. Thomas McCormack died on November 4 1975 at 82.
Bridget Delia McDermott
Bridget Delia McDermott embarked at Queenstown at the age of 28 and was traveling third class. She was born in Knockfarnaught , Lahardane , County Mayo, on March 8 1884, to Michael and Bridget Rowland McDermott . She was one of only three Titanic survivors from Addergoole parish in Lahardane , County Mayo. The other 11 from the group all perished in the disaster.
Bridget escaped in lifeboat 13 having jumped some 15 feet into the boat. Following her rescue, she went to her cousin in St. Louis where she worked as a domestic. She later moved to Atlantic City, NJ, and then to Jersey City, where she met and married John Joseph Lynch. The couple had three children. For many years, she ran a boarding house on Union Street in Jersey City, where her husband worked for the railroad. She died in Jersey City on November 3 1959.
Speaking about the memorial ceremony and unveiling, Charles A. Haas, co-founder and President of Titanic International Society, thanked the archdiocese and the cemetery for their support. He added, “In a very real way, today’s ceremony brings further closure to his family, and ensures his place among the heroes of that tragic night of 1912.”
Dozens of Titanic International Society members from as far away as Switzerland, England and Canada joined their American friends at the service, part of the Society’s three-day convention held in nearby Elizabeth. Also participating were Hopkins’ grandchildren, great-grandchildren and extended family, who expressed their gratitude to the Society and the Archdiocese for initiating the project and providing the headstone.
Titanic International Society is a non-profit historical organization based in Midland Park, NJ founded in 1989. Its mission is to preserve and perpetuate the memory and history of the Royal Mail Ship Titanic, and those who sailed aboard her maiden and last voyage.
To learn more, visit www.titanicinternationalsociety.org.