As the Titanic sinks on the night of its maiden voyage, a couple could be seen holding each other as the ship went down. The couple was Macy’s department store co-owner Isador Straus and his wife Ida, the great, great, great grandparents of freshman Katherine Douglas.
In an effort to enhance the “Titanic” themed prom experience, Douglas and her family donated over 600 replica Titanic boarding passes and a video featuring real artifacts from the ship.
“We chose the [Titanic] theme because of the elegance of the dresses, the grand ballroom and the staircase,” prom coordinator and junior class sponsor Shana Wetzel said. “Then word got out and [the coincidence] was kind of ironic. I hope it gives more meaning to the theme other than basing the decorations around it.”
The story goes that as the Titanic sank, the Straus couple helped the ship’s passengers get to safety on the lifeboats. Ida was encouraged to get on a lifeboat, but refused to leave her husband and instead got her maid to safety. She handed her fur coat to her maid, claiming she wouldn’t need it anymore. The couple died together after 41 years of marriage.
“Ida wouldn’t leave her husband. It was true love,” Douglas said. “It’s inspired me to love more.”
The Douglas’s wanted to bring the history of the Titanic to the forefront of the prom theme focus. Wetzel hoped the enhancements would help students “gain a better sense of historical relevance.”
“There were a lot of famous and important people on the boat,” Douglas said, “but all life should be taken seriously, not based off second or third class.”
More than 100 years after the sinking of the Titanic and multiple deep ocean explorations later, memorabilia and heirlooms have been recovered and donated to museums across America. Over the past summer, Katherine and her mom visited New York City for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic and a Straus family reunion.
“It was pretty cool,” Douglas said. “There was a big poster with the whole family tree on it. When I saw my name on it, I was really happy.”
The prestige of Ida and Isador Straus lives on in many different ways. They were depicted in both the movie The Titanic and the Broadway musicals. A monument to them stands in a Bronx cemetery with an inscription reading, “Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it.”