The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

CNHI Special Projects

April 8, 2012

Matriarch's survival story inspires Pa. family

(Continued)

HERMITAGE, Pa. —

Shanini's journey from Lebanon to America began after her marriage to George Joseph Wahabe. After having five children, she decided, against her husband’s wishes, to come to America in 1906 to earn enough money to buy some land for her family and build a house in Lebanon.

"She got on a ship by herself, going to a country where she did not speak the language and where immigrants were not treated well, and once there, got a job, made some money going from door to door washing people’s clothes," Sharon said.

But after two years of working in America, Shanini got word that her husband had died. That was in 1908, and by 1910, Shanini managed to get four of her five children – Joseph, Thomas, Rose and Mary – into America, settling in Youngstown, Ohio. The fifth child -- Sharon’s grandfather, Albert -- remained in Lebanon to maintain the family home. He was around 11 or 12 at the time.

In 1910, she sent sons Joseph and Thomas back to Lebanon in hopes of improving Thomas' health, but by early 1911, he was getting worse. So she left her daughters in the care of an orphanage to go back to Lebanon to be with him.

"It took Shanini a month to get to Lebanon, and by the time she got there, Thomas had died just days before," Sharon said. "She never really emotionally recovered from his death. Then she needed to work in Lebanon to earn enough money for her passage back to the U.S. as well as get things in order."

By the time she did, about a year later, it was the spring of 1912, and she booked passage on the R.M.S. Titanic.

"Her ticket was approximately four pounds and four shillings, around $30 dollars in those days and about $350 in today’s money," said Sharon. "To compare, Molly Brown had the cheapest first class ticket at around (the equivalent of) $1,500. The average first class person spent (the equivalent of) $3,000 on a ticket."

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