Remembering a New Jersey man who went down with the Titanic

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

31-year-old Washington Roebling II was a dynamic, dapper Trenton socialite from a prominent family that made its name spinning wire and cables for the Brooklyn Bridge and many other famous spans.

On April 15, 1912 Roebling was a passenger on the Titanic when it hit an iceberg and sank. But even as the ship was going down, the bachelor who designed and drove race cars remained a gentleman.

"Washington Roebling had every chance as a first class passenger to exit the ship, but he didn't do that," said Patricia Millen of the Roebling Museum in Roebling, N.J.

The museum has just unveiled an exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster called "Calm Heroism". It includes an audio recording of survivor Margaret Graham, who was a 19-year-old debutante when the doomed ship sank.

She recalls how Washington Roebling and a friend guided her into a lifeboat.

"Mr. Roebling and Mr. Case hustled our party of three into the boat in less time than it takes to tell," says Graham in the recording. "And a few men jumped in at the last moment. But Mr. Roebling and Mr. Case just stood at the railing."

"The last thing she remembers was he was standing at the railing waving goodbye and smiling," said the museum's Don Jones.

The disaster made headlines in the local paper. For days after the Titanic sank it was believed Washington Roebling survived.

Roebling's relatives went to New York to meet the Carpathia, the ship that brought survivors back from the disaster. And they traveled to Nova Scotia to examine the remains of the dead. But Roebling's body was never found.

His parents are buried at Riverview Cemetery in Trenton where their grave marker pays tribute to their only son, lost on the doomed steamship Titanic.

"The people whose bodies were found, at least you could bury your loved one," said Clifford Zinc, author of the book, "The Roebling Legacy." "But in the case of Charles Roebling, he never found his son and so never really knew what happened to him. I dont think he ever recovered."

The giant Roebling Co. closed years ago and anyone who might have known Washington Roebling is long since gone. But on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, this Trentonian is being remembered for his quiet heroism as the ship went down.

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