Most of us can agree that director James Cameron did a fantastic job with the 1997 blockbuster movie, “Titanic.” Outside of Jack and Rose’s story, have you ever wondered about the other people onboard?
Do you remember the elderly couple holding each other tight on a bed as the massive boat was sinking? That moment was likely dramatized by Cameron, but one that left us remembering that scene 20 years later.
The couple was Isidor and Ida Straus. Cameron was correct about the couple having an unbreakable bond — they chose to die together that frightful night in 1912 when the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Isidor Straus was 67 years old when he boarded the ship with his wife, Ida. He also was a co-owner of Macy's department store and a former U.S. Congress member. He stayed behind with his wife of 40 years so others could be saved.
It is an unwritten law of the sea that woman and children are first to board lifeboats. But as for Ida, who was 63 years old at the time, she gave up her seat to be with her husband.
"My great-grandmother Ida stepped into the lifeboat expecting that her husband would follow," said their great-grandson, Paul A. Kurzman. "When he didn’t follow, she was very concerned, and the ship’s officer in charge of lowering that particular lifeboat said, 'Well, Mr. Straus, you’re an elderly man, and we all know who you are. Of course, you can enter the lifeboat with your wife.'"
"And, my great-grandfather said, 'No. Until I see that every woman and child on board this ship is in a lifeboat, I will not enter into a lifeboat myself.'"
When Ida heard Isidor say those words to the ship officer, she quickly got off the boat. In the film's deleted scenes, you will see Ida tell Isidor that she was staying on the sinking ship with him.
"If you know the Bible, in the tradition of the Book of Ruth, she basically said, 'We have lived our whole life together, and if you are going to remain on the boat and to die as the boat sinks, I will remain on the boat with you. We will not leave one another after our long and wonderful marriage together,'" said Kurzman, who first heard the couple's extraordinary story from his grandmother, the Strauses' oldest daughter, Sara Straus Hess.
Kurzman and other ancestors were invited by the Cameron to participate in the National Geographic channel's special, "Titanic: 20 Years Later with James Cameron."
In that program, the audience was able to view a special artifact that indeed belonged to the Strauses. It was a gold and onyx locket that was discovered inside Isidor's watch pocket when his body was recovered. Unfortunately, Ida's body was never located.
"Inside that locket were two photographs," Kurzman said. "They had to be touched up a little bit because of the salt water, but they weren’t damaged much because the seal was so tight. One of the photographs was of their eldest son, Jesse, and the other was of their eldest daughter, and that, of course, was Sara, my grandmother."
Another item that was found belonged to Ida. It was her full-length mink coat that she often wore on the ship. Once she decided to stay on board with Isidor, she approached her maid, Ellen Bird, as she was stepping aboard a lifeboat and gave it to her so Ellen would keep warm while on the icy water.
After time had passed, Ellen was able to return Ida's coat to their daughter, Sara. It was at that moment when Sara said, "This coat is yours. I want you to keep it in memory of my mother."
What do you think about Isidor and Ida's story? Share this story in loving memory of all the lives that were lost at sea that tragic day. In other news, a missing New York woman has been found 42 years later in Massachusetts.