A Newlywed Couple’s Titanic Journey

Three brothers from Belgium, anxious to seek their fortunes in America, heard about unclaimed land in Montana and decided to emigrate in 1901. Guillaume, Emanuel, and Jacques De Messemaeker settled between Tampico and Vandalia, Montana. They cleared many acres of land and began farming. In 1911, 35-year-old Guillaume (Bill) decided to return home to Belgium to visit family and to marry.

de_messemaeker

Guillaume De Messemaeker

In early 1912, Bill married Anna De Becker and made plans to bring her to Montana. The couple boarded the Titanic as third class passengers. After the collision with the iceberg on the night of April 14th, they managed to get to the boat deck ahead of many others from third class, partly due to Bill’s understanding of English.

When Anna was ordered into Lifeboat 13, she clung to her husband and refused to leave him. Bill finally picked her up and handed her to an officer already in the boat. At that point, he did not expect to survive. But another officer asked if there were any experienced crewmen available to help with Lifeboat 15. Bill volunteered and jumped into the crowded boat. He helped row all night, and was reunited with Anna aboard the Carpathia.

Even after the couple headed to their home in Montana, Anna did not recover from her experience on the Titanic and the thought that she had lost her husband. She died in a mental hospital in 1918.

Anna M

Anna Messemaeker

Bill went back to Belgium for another visit and remarried in 1920. He and his new wife, Marie, returned to Montana where they became the parents of four children and had a successful sheep and cattle ranch. Bill died in 1955 at age 79 and was buried next to Anna in Glasgow, Montana. Marie was also buried next to him when she died in 1983.

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