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Headstone Unveiled for Heroic Seaman of Titanic

May 14, 2016

For nearly 73 years, the body of Titanic hero Robert John Hopkins has rested in an unmarked grave in Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City, New Jersey. Today, a polished black granite headstone bearing his name was unveiled by his family and blessed by Bishop John W. Flesey of the Archdiocese of Newark during a morning ceremony that included prayers and a floral tribute to remember Hopkins and four other Titanic survivors buried at Holy Name Cemetery. The headstone for Mr. Hopkins was commissioned and placed in his memory by the Titanic International Society and the Archdiocese of Newark, with the assistance of Mr. Hopkins’ descendants.

“We are deeply grateful to the Archdiocese of Newark and Holy Name Cemetery for their remarkable support of the Titanic International Society in bringing about this permanent commemoration of Robert Hopkins’ life, and his role aboard Titanic,” said Charles A. Haas, co-founder and President of Titanic International Society. “In a very real way, today’s ceremony brings further closure to his family, and ensures his place among the heroes of that tragic night of 1912.”

Four other Titanic survivors buried at Holy Name Cemetery include Margaret Delia Devaney, Elizabeth Dowdell, Thomas Joseph McCormack, and Bridget Delia McDermott. Coincidentally, Hopkins was assigned by First Officer William Murdoch to lifeboat 13, which carried Miss McDermott and Miss Dowdell to safety. Members of the Titanic International Society also visited their headstones to place flowers and pay their respects, and unveiled Thomas McCormack’s newly inscribed name on the family headstone.

Dozens of Titanic International Society members from as far away as Switzerland, England and Canada joined their American friends at the service, part of the Society’s three-day convention held in nearby Elizabeth, New Jersey. Also participating were Hopkins’ grandchildren, great-grandchildren and extended family, who expressed their gratitude to the Society and the Archdiocese for initiating the project and providing the headstone.

“By taking part in this remembrance ceremony today, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are performing one of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy specified by Pope Francis in ministering to the deceased; we performed, we witnessed, and we experienced an act of mercy for the five Titanic survivors here in our cemetery,” said Andrew P. Schafer, Executive Director of Catholic Cemeteries, a ministry of the Archdiocese of Newark. “It is our profound unshakeable faith that draws us and many others to our loved ones’ final resting place. It is especially symbolic for Holy Name Cemetery where we are marking our 150th anniversary of caring for the faithful departed.”

Holy Name Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Jersey City with approximately 264,000 burials. A section of the cemetery is dedicated to the burial of priests and nuns who served in the city’s Roman Catholic parishes and parochial schools, and also is the final resting place to many Hudson County veterans from as far back as the Spanish American and Civil Wars.

“Even now, 104 years after the ship’s loss, Titanic’s story continues to add new chapters, as continuing research contributes additional knowledge of the ship and her people,” said Mr. Haas. “Through our Society’s journal, students’ study of the ship in school, movies and ever-growing Internet and media coverage, Titanic will never fade from view.”

About the Titanic International Society

Titanic International Society is a non-profit historical organization based in Midland Park, New Jersey founded in 1989 to preserve and perpetuate the memory and history of the Royal Mail Ship Titanic, and those who sailed aboard her maiden and last voyage. Through the pages of its quarterly, fully-illustrated journal, Voyage, as well as through frequent membership activities, Titanic International Society disseminates the latest research on Titanic and her legacy, along with research into the history of other great ocean liners of the past. With members invited to “get involved,” Titanic International Society is known as the history group that listens, and encourages robust discussion on the Titanic and her people. To learn more, visit www.titanicinternationalsociety.org.

About Catholic Cemeteries

Catholic Cemeteries, a ministry of the Archdiocese of Newark, ministers to the needs of individuals and families before, at the time of, and after death. This includes caring assistance with cemetery pre-planning; compassionate support at the time of death and facilitating a loved one’s interment in a holy place; support throughout bereavement; and perpetual cemetery care, thereafter. The Archdiocese of Newark operates ten Catholic cemeteries vital to the Catholic community for more than 160 years. Over one million loved ones are interred in its cemeteries, and daily and perpetual care is provided for each holy space and the entirety of each cemetery. Especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Catholic Cemeteries recognizes the deep religious significance of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy involved in the burial of and prayers for a deceased loved one and the sanctity of the Order of Christian Funerals. To learn more, visit www.rcancem.org or connect on Facebook and Twitter.

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About the Titanic Survivors at Holy Name Cemetery

Margaret Delia Devaney, 20, boarded Titanic as a third-class passenger at Queenstown, intending to settle in New York City, where her brother and two sisters lived. She was born on May 15, 1891 in Kilmacowan, near Ballysodare, in County Sligo, Ireland to John and Margaret Gunning Devaney. She was rescued in Collapsible C and loaned her pocketknife to the seaman in charge to enable him to cut free the oars necessary for rowing the boat. Following Titanic, she worked as a domestic in Manhattan until her marriage to John Joseph O’Neill in 1919 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They relocated to Jersey City, New Jersey where they raised four children. After the death of her husband in 1960, Margaret moved to Clifton, New Jersey, where she passed away on June 12, 1974 at age 83.

Elizabeth Dowdell, 31, of Union Hill, New Jersey, boarded Titanic at Southampton as nurse to six-year-old Virginia Ethel Emanuel, whom she was escorting to Virginia’s grandparents’ home in New York City. Elizabeth had been born on September 6, 1880 in West Hoboken, New Jersey to Matthew and Alice Carey Dowdell. She and her young charge were rescued in lifeboat 13, along with able-bodied seaman Robert Hopkins and Bridget Delia McDermott, who also are being remembered today. She later worked as a domestic for several wealthy families in Manhattan until her marriage to Harry Fierer on February 23, 1933. She passed away in the Bronx, New York, on November 16, 1962 at age 82.

Robert John Hopkins, 43, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 30, 1868 to John and Catherine McMullen Hopkins. Aboard Titanic, he was an able-bodied seaman assigned during the evacuation by First Officer Murdoch to lifeboat 13, which also brought Delia McDermott and Elizabeth Dowdell to safety. He and fireman Fred Barrett were instrumental in cutting the falls to free boat 13 from being crushed by boat 15, which was being lowered onto it from above. Prior to his Titanic experience, in 1900, he had emigrated to the United States with his wife, Annie Graham Hopkins, and lived in Manhattan where two sons, Robert and James, were born. Following the untimely death of his wife on February 3, 1907, he returned his sons to family in Liverpool, England where they were raised and educated. Robert, Sr. returned to the United States, living in West New York, New Jersey and later in Hoboken, New Jersey during his years at sea. He continued to live and work there as a stevedore on the docks in his later years, until his death on November 17, 1943. His grave remained unmarked until May 2016, when the Archdiocese of Newark and Titanic International Society, with the assistance of his descendants, commissioned and placed a stone in his memory.

Thomas Joseph McCormack, 19, was born on December 11, 1892 in Glenmore, County Longford to parents Bernard and Maria McKenna McCormack. He boarded Titanic at Queenstown as a third-class passenger. He was returning to his home in Bayonne, New Jersey following a visit with his elderly parents in Ireland. Accompanying Thomas were his two cousins, John and Philip Kiernan. Tom survived after immersion in the freezing water, but lost his two cousins. After his rescue, he returned to Bayonne, where he worked as a bartender. He served during World War I and received a Purple Heart. Following the war, he married Mary Ellen Donovan, but they had no children. Following the death of his wife in 1962, he retired to Elizabeth, New Jersey where he lived with his nephew during the last years of his life. Thomas McCormack died on November 4, 1975 at age 82. After his death, his name and dates never were engraved on the family stone, until the Archdiocese of Newark and Titanic International Society corrected this omission in May 2016.

Bridget Delia McDermott, 28, embarked at Queenstown and was traveling third class aboard Titanic. She was born in Knockfarnaught, Lahardane, County Mayo on March 8, 1884 to Michael and Bridget Rowland McDermott. She was one of only three Titanic survivors from Addergoole parish in Lahardane, County Mayo. The other 11 from the group all perished in the disaster. Bridget escaped in lifeboat 13, after having to jump some fifteen feet into the boat. Following her rescue, she went to her cousin in St. Louis, Missouri where she worked as a domestic. She later moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey and then to Jersey City, where she met and married John Joseph Lynch. The couple had three children. For many years, she ran a boarding house on Union Street in Jersey City, where her husband worked for the railroad. She died in Jersey City on November 3, 1959 and joins the four other Titanic survivors at rest in Holy Name Cemetery.