Lifeboat Number 8


They never recovered her body, though they recovered his.

You will probably know this story, but it bears retelling in a world where fidelity is rare.

It is an interesting beginning, to be born in Worms. But born in Worms, Germany, Ida Blun was, the fifth of seven children: Jesse, Clarence, Percy, Sara, Minnie, Herbert and Vivian.

In the fulness of time they emigrated to the States, and in this land of opportunity Ida met both the love of her life, and a very good match indeed.

He was an astute businessman and co-owner of Macey’s Department Store.

Not only were they prosperous New Yorkers, they were deeply in love. Friends and relatives remarked on how close the two were. When Isidor Straus was compelled to travel away as a US Representative for New York, they daily wrote to one another.

They spent the winter of 1911-12 in Europe, and their future was determined by a coal miner’s strike.

They had a passage booked on another ship, but when the strike hit, all available coal was diverted to one very important vessel: the HMS Titanic.

So they bought tickets for that, and embarked, and the rest is history, even that bit where we stand in the centre of all the chaos and anguish of a sinking ship in arctic seas, somewhere near lifeboat number 8.

The couple were offered a place on number 8, but Isidor would not go. There were women and children still on the ship, he said: how could he take their place? But he turned to his wife and implored her to board the little craft and save herself.

What happened next is well recorded. She turned to him and said: “We have been together for 40 years, and we will not separate now.”

Death would not part these two.  In time Isidor’s body was found and Ida’s never was. Posterity has accorded them a monument at Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx. Inscribed on it are the words from the Song of Solomon: “Many waters cannot quench love – neither can the floods drown it.”

Constancy over 40 years is a rare flower. There will be those around you, maybe even you yourself, who have been together for that length of time. Across cyberspace I extend my respect and admiration for such extraordinary human faithfulness.

It does not require a life and death test to be celebrated for the miracle it is.





17 thoughts on “Lifeboat Number 8

  1. So sad and yet so lovingly meaningful in that Ida chose to stay with Isidor. Rapidly approaching 45 years with the love of my life, I hope I would do the same. You always weave stories so well, Kate. Thank for weaving this one.

      1. Yes Kate, but I must confess I prefer Berties rendition.
        The War Office has been around for many years now, nearly 40 😈
        As I considered myself the Department of Supply in the government of our home it was only right that my wife had a suitable moniker too! 😀

  2. We just celebrated our 46th anniversary, Kate,which just sounds impossible! I think I understand Ida’s devotion to her husband, but their story is still so remarkable to me in her willingness to remain with her husband and not save her own life. Pretty remarkable and completely uncommon! And Isidor was a valiant man himself, given that others saved themselves without regard for women and children. I think we can all benefit from reminders of personal courage. Well done!

    1. Debra, huge congratulations and hugs to you both! And you are so right about Isidor, whose power and wealth could have guaranteed him a place. When two humans come together in fidelity and loyalty, such magic can happen: including a family which extends and grows and burgeons with its own life and stories.

  3. I must mention to this to 9-year-old granddaughter R who has for the past year been besotted with two things: London, from a visit, and the Titanic, having been hooked by the movie. She is a mine of information on the disaster.

      1. She would be over the moon to see that! Unfortunately none of us have ever been anywhere near Ireland. She was thrilled, though, to see the dock in Southampton from which her great grandmother had watched the Titanic set sail.

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