Media Coverage

Mary Ann did a program for the Medina County Historical Society in October 2018. Here’s coverage, with photos, about that program.


The Plain Dealer’s 100th anniversary Titanic coverage in 2012

Mary Ann, a copy editor at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, had the opportunity to help the newspaper put together a package of articles about Northeast Ohio’s Titanic connections. She and reporter Michael Sangiacomo interviewed local descendants and several staff photographers took photos of them and their family mementoes and also videotaped interviews with the descendants. The links below to each page on include the text of the articles, photos and video clips on each Titanic passenger featured. There is also a passenger list highlighting the Northeast Ohio-bound passengers and a link to regional events. The package ran in The Plain Dealer on Sunday, April 8, 2012.

Main  page:

Anna Turja:

Elin Hakkarainen:

Thelma Thomas (Note: because Thelma never lived in Ohio she is not featured in Ohio Tales of the Titanic but her daughter currently lives in Cleveland):

Frank Goldsmith:

Richard Otter:

Mary Davison:

Caroline Bonnell:

NE Ohio passenger list:

NE Ohio Titanic events:


Mary Ann was interviewed by Fox 8 News in Cleveland about Ohio Tales of the Titanic along with Cleveland-area descendants of passengers Thelma Thomas, Caroline Bonnell and Richard Otter during the week of April 8-13, leading up to the 100th anniversary. Here’s a video clip of one of the segments:


Cate Kunzi of the Burning River Genealogy blog put a very nice entry on her blog for April 15, 2012, about the book:


The Toledo Free Press ran this article on April 15, 2012, by Caitlin McGlade:

“Many Northwest Ohio families broken by sunken ship”


The Crescent News, Defiance, Ohio

April 12, 2012

By Lisa Nicely

It’s not hard imagining the horror that happened a hundred years ago as cries and sobs filled the north Atlantic, and the sea claimed the “unsinkable” Titanic. Of the more than 1,523 people that lost their lives that night, several were headed to Ohio.

“There were 55 people best that I can figure,” said Mary Ann Whitley, co-author of Ohio Tales of the Titanic with Janet White. “We’re counting people that were coming to visit friends and relatives that were coming to visit other people.”

Of the 55 Ohio-bound passengers, 28 perished. Only seven of them were headed to Toledo and northwest Ohio and they all died when the Titanic sank. Several others heading to Ohio survived.

A memorial to the Ohio Titanic passengers can be seen near the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. It was established by the Great Lakes Titanic Society. Several descendants of Titanic passengers spoke at the dedication ceremony in 2005.

“I got interested in the Ohio (Titanic) connection in 1998 when I went to a program in Parma and there were several descendants of Ohio passengers,” Whitley said. “That’s when I met Janet White. I was fascinated there were so many people there.”

While there are no local descendants of Titanic victims, individuals don’t have to travel far to honor the victims of the crash.

Cinematographer William Harbeck is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo. He left behind several mysteries and is believed to have taken footage on the Titanic that has been lost to the sea.

“It would be really something if they (the reels) were found,” Whitley said. “In the James Cameron movie, in the very beginning it shows someone operating a movie camera. Maybe that was him. Cameras would have been pretty rare at that time.”

According to various newspaper reports, Harbeck had been hired to film the ship from when it left Southampton until it arrived in New York City. He was then expected to transfer to a tugboat when the ship reached harbor to film the liner coming into port. One survivor, Lawrence Beelsey, stated he saw an “American” filming onboard events including a near collision with the ship the New York when it left Southhampton.

Besides the mystery of what happened to the film, there is another mystery of Harbeck’s trip. That includes the identity of the woman on the ship that he claimed to be his wife. His real wife, Catherine Harbeck, was home in Toledo. Harbeck had listed a woman named Henriette Yvois as his wife for the trip, according to reports. Her body was never found. According to Whitley, when Catherine went to claim her husband’s body she wasn’t allowed at first because authorities were told his wife died on the Titanic.

Another woman, calling herself Brownie Harbeck, had also contacted authorities asking about Harbeck’s recovered possessions including gold coins he took with him. Harbeck’s oldest son, John, was able to convince authorities that the woman was not a relative, while his mother convinced authorities she was Harbeck’s true wife.

With the confusion somewhat cleared, Harbeck’s body returned to Toledo. His gravestone even states he was a victim of the Titanic. Harbeck’s only known descendant is his great-great nephew Karl Harbeck of Blissfield, Mich.

Another Titanic passenger was also headed to Toledo.

Henry Michael Mitchell of England was going to visit his sister-in-law, Anna Jeffery, at 1604 Collingwood Ave., according to reports. Mitchell was a widower and had been asked to come visit by Jeffery, according to Whitley. His body was never recovered, and his personal effects were sent to his daughter in England.

Five Belgian farm workers were traveling on the Titanic to reach Fremont, where they had been hired as seasonal help, Whitley said.

Julius Vanderplancke and his wife, Emelia, were headed to the area along with two of Vanderplancke’s siblings, Augusta and Leo. A friend, Victor Vandercruyssen, was with them. Their bodies were never recovered.

While Whitley did a lot of research for the book, she was interested in the Titanic before the meeting because of her family connection. Her grandfather, his brothers and brother-in-law all helped build the Titanic in Belfast.


WTAM radio station/Cleveland

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Titanic 100 years later

Nine Greater Clevelanders perished when the famed ocean liner sank.

Cleveland –– This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The ship went down in the icy North Atantic Ocean in 1912 taking 1,514 lives.

Of the 2,224 people on board the luxury liner, 55 were traveling to Ohio and 28 of them died. There were 16 passengers heading to Greater Cleveland and of those only 7 survived.

Mary Ann Whitley is co-author of Ohio Tales of the Titanic, and was among those instrumental in creating the Ohio Titanic Memorial, which is behind the Great Lakes Science Center downtown.

Whitley tells Newsradio WTAM 1100 that among the Clevelanders on board were Harry and Mary Davison who were returning to Bedford, Ohio.

Harry died and Mary survived. Mary had convinced Harry to exchange the tickets they had on another ship for the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

Whitley says Richard Otter was stonecutter in Berea and died returning home from a vacation, leaving his wife and son destitute.

Whitley explains that the Titanic has generated so much interest over the years because it affected so many people, much like the 9-11 attacks. She says the sinking was completely unexpected, especially not during its first run.






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