Finally resting in peace

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.

However, over the weekend, a polished black granite headstone bearing his name was unveiled by his family and blessed by the Most Rev. John W. Flesey, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, during a morning ceremony that included prayers and a floral tribute to Hopkins and four other Titanic survivors buried at Holy Name Cemetery.

The headstone for Hopkins was commissioned and placed in his memory by the Titanic International Society and the Archdiocese of Newark, with the assistance of 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 are buried at Holy Name Cemetery, including Margaret Delia Devaney, Elizabeth Dowdell, Thomas Joseph McCormack and Bridget Delia McDermott.

Coincidentally, Hopkins was assigned by the ill-fated ship’s First Officer William Murdoch to lifeboat 13, which carried McDermott and Dowdell to safety.

Members of the Titanic International Society also visited those survivors’ headstones to place flowers and pay their respects — and unveiled McCormack’s newly inscribed name on the family headstone.

Dozens of Titanic International Society members, from as far as Switzerland, England and Canada, joined their American counterparts at the service, part of the Society’s three-day convention held in nearby Elizabeth.

Also participating were Hopkins’ grandchildren, great-grandchildren and extended family, who expressed gratitude to the Society and the Archdiocese for initiating the project and providing the headstone.

“By taking part in this remembrance ceremony, 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,” Haas said. “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.”

What is the Titanic International Society?

Titanic International Society is a non-profit historical organization based in Midland Park, 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,” the Society is known as the history group that listens, and encourages robust discussion on the Titanic and her people. Find out more by visiting

Who were the survivors?

Margaret Delia Devaney, who was 20 when she boarded Titanic as a third-class passenger at Queenstown, Ireland, 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 in New York City. They relocated to Jersey City, where they raised four children. After the death of her husband in 1960, Margaret moved to Clifton, where she died June 12, 1974, at age 83.

Elizabeth Dowdell, of Union Hill (later merged with West Hoboken as Union City), was 31 when she boarded Titanic at Southampton as a nurse to 6-year-old Virginia Ethel Emanuel, whom she was escorting to Virginia’s grandparents’ home in New York City. Elizabeth had been born on Sept. 6, 1880, in West Hoboken, to Matthew and Alice Carey Dowdell. She and her young charge were rescued in lifeboat 13, along with able-bodied seaman Robert Hopkins and Delia McDermott. She later worked as a domestic for several wealthy families in Manhattan until her marriage to Harry Fierer Feb. 23, 1933. She died in the Bronx, on Nov. 16, 1962, at age 82.

Robert John Hopkins, who was 43 when the Titanic sailed, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Nov. 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 (blocks and tackle hoist) to free boat 13 from being crushed by boat 15, which was being lowered on to 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 Feb. 3, 1907, he sent his sons to live with family members in Liverpool, England, where they were raised and educated. Robert Sr. returned to the United States, living in West New York — and later in Hoboken — 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 Nov. 17, 1943. His grave remained unmarked until May, 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 was 19 when he boarded Titanic at Queenstown as a third-class passenger. He was born Dec. 11, 1892, in Glenmore, County Longford, to parents Bernard and Maria McKenna McCormack.

He was returning to his home in Bayonne, 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, where he lived with his nephew during the last years of his life.

Thomas McCormack died Nov. 4, 1975, at age 82.

After his death, his name and dates were never engraved on the family stone, until the Archdiocese of Newark and Titanic International Society corrected this omission this May.

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 15 feet into the boat.

Following her rescue, she went to her cousin in St. Louis, where she worked as a domestic. She later moved to Atlantic City 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 St. in Jersey City, where her husband worked for the railroad. She died in Jersey City on Nov. 3, 1959. 

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