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LIFE AFTER THE SINKING: Grandfather of local woman fights in World War I

April 9, 2012

A military photo of Antoine Temmerman, Rainbow Troops, World War I. — Photo contributed

Editor’s Note: The following is the second of a three-part series on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and the impact the event is having today on a local family.
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COLUMBIA CITY — After Antoine Temmerman and Jean Scheerlink were reunited in Detroit, Scheerlink and the two other men who hid with him on the lifeboat, went to work laying brick sidewalks in Detroit.
Temmerman took a job with the Ford Motor Company, and was eventually transferred to Defiance, Ohio.
Scheerlink also began telling stories of his voyage on the Titanic.
“They say he never bought a drink again in his village, as he got drinks for telling his Titanic story,” said granddaughter Gail Morris.
Morris said out of the 24 Flemish people who sailed on the Titanic, only seven survived.
“My grandfather was very happy Scheerlink was able to make it off the Titanic,” said Morris.
Morris also said Scheerlink did not stay in America long, and he was the first male survivor of the Belgians to return home.
“The Red Cross gave him $400, and the White Star Line gave him free passage back to Belgium,” said Morris. “He married in October of 1912.”
During WWI, when Germany invaded Belgium, five of Temmerman’s brothers were imprisoned. One of his brothers died.
Temmerman was convinced he needed to fight for his brothers.
Morris said Temmerman enlisted July 31, 1917 with the Co. G. 6th Ohio National Guard, later known as part of the 147th Infantry.
Morris said two weeks later, he was transferred to the Rainbow Division at Camp Perry, Ohio and later to Camp Mills, Long Island. Temmerman served throughout the war with the 42nd Division.
“Grandpa was wounded three times, and the last time, placed in a pile of bodies,” said Morris. “Those bodies were gassed three days in a row to make sure they were all dead. Somebody noticed on the third time they gassed him that he had a tear coming out of his eye, and I guess they pulled him out.”
When Temmerman returned from the war, he was still not an American citizen, even though he did receive a Purple Heart.
May 3, 1919, Morris said Temmerman wrote a letter to the Naturalization Examiner requesting U.S. citizenship before he returned to visit his parents in Belgium.
In his request Temmerman wrote, “I desire to clothe myself with the power of American citizenship if possible.”
Temmerman died March 28, 1973 in Florida.

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