Ruth Elizabeth Becker was born on October 28, 1899 in Guntur, India. The first child of Allen Oliver Becker, an American Lutheran minister and Nellie E. Becker. Mr. Becker's missionary was based in India and that is where all but one of the Becker's children were born.
Luther Becker was born in Lima, Ohio in March of 1905 and died just two years later in February of 1907. The other two Becker children were Marion who was born on December 28, 1907 and Richard who was born on June 26, 1910.
Early in 1912, Richard contracted an illness much like his brother had five years previous. Instead of taking the chance of Richard having the same fate as Luther, Nellie decided to return to Michigan, where doctors said the conditions were better. Reverend Becker was also in poor health, but the doctor who was authorized to sign papers relieving him of his commitment as a missionary was not available when they left. So Nellie, Ruth, Marion, and Richard packed up many of their belongings and headed to Madras where they boarded the steamer City of Benares on March 7, 1912. The month-long trip started at Madras, went through the Suez Canal to Port Said and then across Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and finally up to London, England.
The Becker's reached London on April 5, 1912, Good Friday. They stayed in London for a total of five days. Nellie took the kids all over, to see the many sights, such as Westminster Abbey, Madam Tussaud's wax museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the London Zoo, just in case they never got back to England again. On the morning of Wednesday, April 10 the family headed to Waterloo Station and boarded the Boat Train, who's destination was Southampton. The boat train left at 7:30, carrying second and third class passengers, and arrived dockside at about 9:30. The Becker's boarded the Titanic about 10:30. Their ticket was #230136 which cost 39 pounds, their cabin was F-4.
"We took the train from London to Southampton, to get on the Titanic. My mother had to see the purser, and she said 'You know I am not one bit happy about going on this ship to New York City.' And he said 'Why?' And she said 'Because this is the first trip it's ever made..' and she said that, '...I'm just a little nervous about it.' And he said,'Ma'am, you know that the Titanic has watertight compartments and if anything does happen these watertight compartments with keep the ship up until they get help.'"
During the voyage, Nellie usually watched Marion, while Ruth watched Richard. To escape the cold weather and to pass time Ruth would go into the enclosed promenade and wheel Richard around in a stroller provided by the White Star Line. Ruth was not impressed by the voyage, having just been on a month-long one not to long before. She did appreciate the newness of the ship, she enjoyed sleeping in new sheets and eating off plates no one else had ever eaten off of.
"My little brother was two years old and to pass the time away, I would wheel him up and down the deck. I would look in the Dining Room and it was the most beautiful sight I ever saw. You see, it was new, absolutely new. I just stood there and marveled, how beautiful everything was......
..... Our Cabin was on the port side toward the stern and very close to the waterline. I could look through the porthole and see the ocean. The water would be almost up to my eyes."
On the night of April 15, Ruth and Nellie were awaken a little after midnight. The engines had stopped and there was a lot of commotion outside. Nellie got out of bed and found a steward, who told them nothing was wrong.
"There was so much noise upstairs—they were running—running upstairs and in the halls—and yelling and all that. The first cabin steward we saw said, 'No there's nothing wrong at all—there's just been a little accident and their going to fix it and we'll be going on in a few minutes.'"
Nellie and Ruth returned to bed. But the longer it took for the engines to start again the more anxious Nellie got. She decided to get up again and find another cabin steward. She asked the steward what the trouble was. He told her to put on their life belts and go up to the boat deck immediately.
"We had the two kids with us and we dressed them and we didn't dress ourselves though. We put our coats over our night clothes. We did not put on any life belts. We didn't take time for that. We went up the steps and came to this great big room and it was full of women in and in all kinds of dress and undress. They were crying or they were scared, because they didn't know what was going to happen."
After waiting awhile in the room:
"Two officers came in and they said, 'Well it's time to get into the lifeboats now.' So one officer took my brother and the other took my sister, carried them, and my mother and I climbed an iron ladder to the top deck to get into the lifeboats."
When they got to the boat deck, Nellie realized how cold it was. So she sent her always reliable daughter, Ruth, to their cabin to get some blankets. When Ruth returned Marion and Richard had been put into lifeboat No. 11 and the order was given to lower away, but Nellie screamed, and asked to be allowed to go with her children. Realizing Ruth was not with them she turned around and told Ruth to get into another boat.
"They took us to boat number 11, the officers put my little brother and sister in, they said, 'That's all for this boat.' And my mother just yelled, screamed, she said 'Please let me in that boat those are my children!' and so they did, they let her in the boat. Well I was left on the Titanic, so I went down and saw an officer putting people in the next boat, and I asked him if I could get into the boat, and he said 'Sure.' and he picked me up and dumped me in. I evidently was the last one put in that boat, because they started lowering right away."
Lifeboat No. 11 was lowered at 1:35 a.m. with about sixty people in it, with no complications. Lifeboat No. 13 which Ruth was in, was lowered at 1:40 a.m. with about sixty people also. Lifeboat No. 13 had some trouble with lowering. As lifeboat 13 hit the water it was washed further astern by the nearby exhaust water, until its' ropes tightened. When the occupants looked up they saw lifeboat No. 15 being lowered right on top of them. They began to scream and yell up to the boat deck for them to stop lowering, but their cries were unheard. Stoker Fred Barrett got out his knife along with other men and began cutting the ropes which held Lifeboat No. 13 under No. 15. Lifeboat No. 15 got so close some men put their hands up to try to push away, at the last minute No. 13s ropes were cut and it floated out from under No. 15.
"We rowed away from the Titanic just as fast as we could, and there was five or six decks and they were just lined with people—standing there at the edge looking over. I suppose they were wishing and hoping some one would come and rescue them. When we were about a mile away the boat was just beautiful, it was a very dark, black night and the ocean was very calm it was just like a mill pond, just like we were going out for a ride on a pond."
Here is how Ruth described the sinking:
"It was going down just slowly, not fast at all and the night was dark, no moon, a very dark black night and that boat was just beautiful, all the lights in the boat were on. Just a beautiful site. But it was going down quietly and the lights were just going under the water as it went down and I remember that very plainly—and I thought it was a beautiful sight and a terrible sight because you could see that the boat was going under the water..........
.......When the ship broke in half, of course it broke in half between the funnels, the stern stayed up for about a minute or so and then it went down,that's the way we saw it."
In Ruth's boat, like in most of the others, they did not return to pick up survivors for fear of being swamped.
"They jumped and they screamed and they yelled for help, and of course nobody came to help, but that was a terrible, terrible time, I can still hear them."
In Ruth's lifeboat it was mainly men who were stokers. Ruth still had hold of the blankets her mother had had her fetch. An officer in the boat asked if she could give them to the stokers to keep them warm. The blankets were soon being ripped in half and distributed to them.
"Finally, we were out away from the disaster and away from these people. Of course, we had no compasses, no food—which we were suppose to have. We were all scattered all over the place . Stokers were rowing the boats and they just had sleeveless shirts and shorts, because it's so hot down there in the engine room, and they were very cold. The officer asked if I would give up my blankets to put around the stokers to keep them halfway warm, and then of course rowing the boat, why that kept them warm too."
In the lifeboat, Ruth was sitting near the bow. One stoker had injured his finger severely, and it was only hanging on by a piece of flesh. So Ruth reached into her pocket and found her dad's handkerchief, and wrapped it around the mans finger. On Ruth's other side was a woman crying, which was Leah Aks. Ruth could not understand what she was saying, until one man said 'She is speaking German.' With the man as the translator, Ruth learned her story. She had been separated from her family at lifeboat No. 11, just like Ruth had. Her baby had been put in the boat, but she was not permitted. She was worried that someone might mistake the wrapped up bundle for luggage and toss it over board (which is what almost happen, but a cry from the baby saved it's life.) Ruth promised to help Leah find her baby once they were rescued.
Around 4:00 a.m. Lifeboat No. 13 saw a light, which to their relief was the rescue ship Carpathia. Lifeboat No. 13 arrived at the Carpathia about 4:45 a.m. Ruth was put in a swing to lift her up to the deck, ever fearful she would fall out, because she could not hold on, due to being cold. Ruth was the first in her boat to reach the deck of the Carpathia. On board, she was offered coffee and brandy, she declined both, never tasting either of them.
"We finally got to the Carpathia they let down a swing for me to get in to it. Well I was so cold, I was numb with the cold, and I couldn't hold on at all. So they tied me in the swing and pulled me up to the top. They had the blankets piled to the ceiling, they had brandy and hot coffee to warm us up, and they had an officer there to meet each one of us."
On board, Ruth kept to her promise and helped Leah Aks look for her baby. Around 10:00 a.m., while Ruth was looking, a passenger came up to her and said, "Are you Ruth Becker?" Ruth replied, "Yes." The passenger then informed Ruth that her mother had been looking every where for her ( Lifeboat No. 11 reached the Carpathia about 8:00 a.m., one of the last boats.) The Becker's were finally reunited. Ruth also found out that Leah Aks had found her baby.
The Carpathia, sailed towards New York at 8:50 a.m..
"When the men put their wives into the lifeboats on the Titanic, they said, 'Well, we will meet you when were saved by another boat, we will meet you there.' So on the Carpathia, the women were all standing at the rails, watching for their husbands to come in later boats and they never came.
.......At 12 o'clock noon [sic] we started for New York. Now this is one of the things that stands out in my mind, you can imagine what it was with these women, who knew then that their husbands had gone down with the ship."
Nellie had a hard time dealing with the disaster, and would cry whenever it was brought up. Ruth was not as distraught as her mother was about the disaster, she felt awkward with the sobbing women. So she stayed with the children, and would sneak sugar lumps from the tables. On board, Ruth was bored most of the time, she often just walked the decks.
On Thursday, April 18, at 8:00 p.m. Carpathia arrived in New York, it was pouring down rain, and a crowd of thousands had formed by the piers.
"Now, nobody was allowed to get off the ship, unless they had friends, good friends, or relatives in New York meeting them there. Reporters came out of the walls, I mean they must have taken some boats out there and gotten on the Carpathia. And mother was so nervous that she cried all the time, I mean when anybody asked her she cried, and she'd say, 'Don't ask me any question, ask Ruth, she'll tell you."
The Becker's were met by family friends who took them to a hotel. They went shopping the next day, to replace the clothing they had lost. The hotel even made them Honorary Guest, so they didn't have to pay for anything there.
Soon, the Becker's continued their journey to Benton Harbor, Michigan. Where Reverend Becker joined them a year later, from Guntur, India.
After the disaster, Nellie would claim $2184.20 against the White Star Line for loss of property. Her personality after the disaster was erratic, crying whenever the subject was brought up. She later became estranged from her younger daughter, Marion, and when Marion died on February 15, 1944 of tuberculosis, Nellie refused to go to the funeral. When Nellie died on February 15, 1961, she left everything to her son Richard, and nothing to Ruth.
Richard first married Eva Marie Anderson, who died in 1942, they had three children; Deborah, Judith, and Richard. He then married Jessie Armstrong Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in the summer of 1943. Jessie died on August 31, 1974 and Richard soon followed on September 6, 1975.
Following the Titanic Disaster Ruth attended high school and college in Ohio (She graduated from Wooster College). From there she moved to Kansas where she taught high school. She married a Daniel Blanchard, a former classmate, they had 3 children together, when they divorce twenty years later, she resumed her teaching career in Benton Harbor, Michigan. For many years she refused to talk about the Titanic, when her children were young they did not know that she had been on board. Only after her retirement in 1971, and her move to Santa Barbara, California, did she start speaking about it, and granting interviews and attending Titanic Historical Society conventions. In her later years she remained active, enjoyed outdoor activities, and serving as a hospital volunteer. In March of 1990, she made her first sea voyage since 1912, a cruise to Mexico, with good friend Don Lynch. She passed away later that year on July 6, 1990 at 9:00 a.m., she was ninety. She was survived by her daughter, Jeanne Lehman of Santa Barbara ( who has since passed away); her son of Akumal, Mexico; eight grand children and fourteen great-grandchildren. Her ashes were scattered over the spot where the Titanic lies. She was a great lady, and will be missed.