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SURVIVING THE TITANIC: Local couple recalls story

April 13, 2012


COLUMBIA CITY — Paul and Carol Burkett of Columbia City can vividly remember Elmer Zimmerman’s talk about his mother surviving the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

The presentation was held Oct. 3, 1996 at the Whitley County Historical Society’s fall banquet at Eagle Glen Golf Course. Carol knew Elmer since her cousin, Helen (Miller) Zimmerman, married him. The Zimmermans lived in Rochester.

Although Elmer is no longer around to tell the story, Paul said he was a very good public speaker. Elmer’s mother was Bertha (Lehman) Zimmerman, born March 31, 1895, in Lotziel, Switzerland.

Bertha’s brother, sister and uncle had already made the journey to Iowa. When Bertha was 17 and had just finished high school, the family decided it was time for her to make the trip.

“She had a ticket to go on a certain ship, but because of the (1912 Great Britain) coal miner’s strike, that ship didn’t sail,” said Carol. “So they put her on the next available ship.”

Bertha boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg, France as a second class passenger, traveling alone. At the time, she was fluent in French, German, Italian and the Swiss Romany language, but she knew no English.
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