Gravestone given for Lillian Bentham, Holley teen who survived Titanic

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – She was 19 when she survived the sinking of The Titanic. Lillian Bentham, who grew up in Holley, was one of 710 people to be rescued when the famed ship hit an iceberg and went down in the ocean on April 14, 1912.

Bentham would live to be 85, and remained in the Holley and Rochester region until her death on Dec. 15, 1977. She was married to John Black, who died at age 81 on June 28, 1977.

Bentham was buried in Hillside Cemetery next to her sister, Daisy Bentham, who died at age 16 in 1904.

Lillian never had a headstone. That changed today when Bridgen Memorials delivered a headstone with the names of Lillian Bentham and her husband. The couple had no children.

Brigden donated the stone and the engraving, which notes Bentham is a “Titanic Survivor”. The stone offers a first-person account of her surviving The Titanic and her grief with the loss of her friends, including her godfather, William Douton of Holley.

Douton and another Holley man, Peter Mackain, were among the 1,514 who perished in the Titanic sinking. They were both quarry workers who spent the winter visiting family in the Isle of Guernsey in Great Britain.

They were among a group traveling The Titanic back to the United States.

Karen Gaylord of Holley has long been intrigued by The Titanic disaster. She wrote the inscription offering the account from Bentham’s perspective.

Gaylord and her sisters, JoAnn Norris and Janet Steidle, have visited The Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The museum gives visitors a boarding pass with a passenger’s name. The sisters have been to the museum twice, and both times they received Lillian Bentham’s boarding pass.

They didn’t know about her local connections until they researched Bentham and discovered that she was from their hometown.

“When we found out she was from Holley, we felt she was calling out to us,” Gaylord said.

She was at the cemetery at about 11 a.m. today when the gravestone for Bentham was delivered.

David Strickland, left, and David Oakley of Brigden Memorials set the stone for Lillian Bentham and her husband John Black at Hillside Cemetery.

Brigden owner David Oakley said the stone had been at Brigden’s site in Albion for many years. Oakley said he appreciates the recent efforts to upgrade Hillside Cemetery, a push led by Melissa Ierlan, the Clarendon code enforcement officer, cemetery caretaker and president of the Clarendon Historical Society.

“Melissa has been great to work with,” Oakley said. “She really does try hard.”

Bentham will be featured during a Ghost Walk on Saturday beginning at 7 p.m. Other prominent cemetery residents will be highlighted during the Ghost Walk, which costs $10. Proceeds will be used to help with restoration of the cemetery chapel.