STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — A hundred years ago Friday the Titanic was beginning her last full night at sea before disaster struck. The centennial has special meaning for members of one Connecticut family.
The elder Joe Duquemen was a third class passenger on the RMS Titanic who survived by leaping into the frigid waters and swimming to nearby a lifeboat.
His son recounted the story to CBS 2′s Lou Young.
“He tried to get in the boat and they took an oar and they beat his hands, they said ‘No, we’re filled’ and no it wasn’t filled. So when he got on board everybody was screaming, crying and he said to himself ‘I guess I’m not going to let that happen’ and he started picking up people. They got a little upset with this,” said the survivor’s son, Joe Duquemen.
As his wife often told, confirmed by witnesses and recorded in history, the elder Duquemen was credited with pulling three other survivors into the lifeboat. However, he watched in vain as his friend drowned.
“He’d always wake up in the middle of the night screaming because he heard his friend. His friend Burt kept screaming ‘Joe, Joe, Joe!’ Bert was his friend. That when he jumped he got sucked down by the suction of the Titanic,” said Jane Camp, the survivor’s granddaughter.
Every one of Duquemen’s 35 descendants owe their very existence to his survival.
“I look at my dad and I look at the picture of my grandfather. We all have those genes,” said Deborah Marino, Duquemen’s grandaughter.
“It was a tragedy for a lot of people. It wasn’t romance. It was a tragedy for all the people who died,” said Kathi Cavanna, another granddaughter.
Joe Duquemen was only 19 when the Titanic sank. He died in 1950 from circulatory complications his family believes were the result of the severe frostbite he suffered swimming to safety.
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