After spending two weeks in Belgium, Shriner Lake resident Gail Morris, returned home, bringing with her more information about her family as well as fond memories about the trip.
“It was a trip that I don’t know if you could repeat, and what I liked most about it was family,” said Morris. “I’ve traveled all over the world as a tourist, but when you can travel and be with family, it’s just so special.”
Morris and her aunt Rose Beery-Temmerman were both invited to Belgium for a ceremony held in the honor of those who left on the R.M.S. Titanic, hoping for a better future in America. The reason Morris was invited to the ceremony was because her father, Antoine Augustus Temmerman, purchased a ticket to sail on the Titanic.
The historical society in the municipality of Haaltert, Belgium wanted to do something that represented the people at that time.
“It is a country that was very hurt by people leaving,” said Morris. “Families were broken. They wanted to something that kind of honored those feelings.”
Even before the Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, the people of Haaltert were saying goodbye to loved ones they would never see again.
The title of the poem on the invitation Morris received translates to “Until we meet again in Heaven,” demonstrating Haaltert’s powerful connection to the ship.
Three major Belgium TV stations and a French TV station accompanied the large crowd that gathered outside the church.
“It was a big deal,” said Morris. “I had no idea it was going to be that big.”
Rose used to sing with the Temmerman Sisters in Ohio, making records during World War II. During the ceremony, she sang songs while family members of the Titanic brought flowers to the pillar. Rose also sang songs in the church.
“When she was singing in the church she said she had this overwhelming feeling that her dad was with her,” said Morris.
Originally Rose was only supposed to sing two songs, “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme song from the Titanic and “On Eagles Wings.”
“She ended up singing five songs,” said Morris. “And because we are Americans, everybody wanted to talk to us and have their picture taken with us.”
Surprise follows local woman visiting Belgium
The surprise in Belgium filled in the gap, adding more information to the story her grandfather told.
“I got to meet my grandfather’s best friend’s, granddaughter,” said Morris. “Her name is Leena Scheerlinck.”
Morris’ grandfather, Temmerman, traded his Titanic ticket with Leena’s grandfather, Jean Scheerlinck. The two men were good friends, and Temmerman traded the ticket to go on the R.M.S. Carpathia to arrive in America earlier.
Both men planned to meet in Detroit where they had secured work.
Temmerman boarded the S.S. Caronia, arriving in America at the Port of New York April 7, 1912.
The Titanic set sail from Southampton April 10, 1912, and Jean boarded as a third class passenger.
When the Titanic struck an iceberg April 14 at 11:40 p.m., it began to sink, eventually becoming fully submerged in less than three hours.
Morris said she was told by Leena that Jean jumped off the Titanic and landed in lifeboat number 11.
“He dug his hands to a metal thing across the bottom in the lifeboat, and he wouldn’t let anybody pull him out so the ladies felt sorry for him, and hid him under their skirts,” said Morris.
Lifeboat 11 left the Titanic at approximately 1:30 p.m.
“I was sad to leave everyone, but this is the 100th year family reunion, and people are talking about coming from Belgium,” said Morris.
While Morris plans to return to Belgium as the family’s ambassador every two years, she said this year was an experience she will never forget.
“It was quite a trip, and I don’t think it can ever be repeated,” said Morris.