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Colette Kager Shares Relatives' Story of Surviving the Titanic

Kager, a North Canton resident, tells the story of how her mother-in-law's cousins survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. That took place 100 years ago this weekend.

Colette Kager had no idea she had ties to the Titanic until she took her mother-in-law, the late Emma Joseph Kager, to see the film in 1997.

It was then that Emma mentioned her two cousins had been on board, traveling from their small village in Syria. They had survived the ship's sinking and eventually made it to America, she said. She had never mentioned the ties till then.

When Colette caught sight of the Syrians in the movie, it struck a chord. Most people don't think about all the immigrants the Titanic carried, she said; but the vessel actually had about 154 Syrians on board.

"I remember seeing that part in the movie — and it lasted forever, in my mind — when the Syrians were being boarded in steerage. And nobody else remembers that part. But to me it lasted forever."

A year or two after they saw the movie, the family went to a Titanic exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center. Colette took with her a piece of paper from Emma, and written on it was the name of Emma's cousin who had survived the Titanic — Jamilia. Emma hadn't been able to remember the name of Jamilia's younger brother who traveled with her.

That name was all Colette needed to confirm the story. She took the paper to the wall that listed the survivors' names.

"I pulled out the piece of paper and I looked up and there her name was," Kager said. "I was just dumbfounded."

Emma had never known Jamilia (Jamilia was more than 20 years older than Emma), but she had met Jamilia's daughters.

"And she said her daughters told her in (Jamilia's) latter years, she died crying; she could never get over that she survived the Titanic."

Emma passed away about four years ago, and since then Colette has researched her relatives' stories, garnering much information from their biographies, and has created a short children's story and presentation about it. She's even working on a novel that's also geared toward children. 

She's scheduled to read "The Voyage of Two Children" at three local libraries this week. (See the end of this story for more info.)

In Colette's presentation, she reads the story she wrote about Jamilia, 14, and her brother Elias, 12, who set off from Syria with their father with the intent of boarding the Titanic together. Their father is detained because of an eye infection and the two children must go on without him.

The story goes on to detail the children's boarding the Titanic and their escape from the boat as it sank. We won't give too much of the children's story away (you should see the library presentations for that).

Colette, a hair stylist at Hairs to You in Canton, said she'll also speak at several schools around North Canton, including where her sons Steven, 11, and Cole, 9, attend.

Steven has heard the story before, but she said Cole wants to hear it for the first time with his classmates.

Children always seem to enjoy the story, especially because it involves people their own age, Colette said. 

"It's the children and the interaction they have with the other kids (that they find interesting)," she said. "And survival. I think that's always of interest, too."

Library Dates and Times: 

  • 2 p.m. Sunday at the Stark Plain Community Branch, 1803 Schneider St. NE, Canton
  • 6:30 p.m. Monday at the , 185 N. Main St., North Canton
  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Louisville Public Library, 700 Lincoln Ave., Louisville
Raine Gottess April 13, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Well I may be far away but not far in heart. I think this is so nice to hear, Colette is just the best anyways and to venture into a children's book is really something I would expect , not surprised she would do. I sure miss the salon group and I am very proud to hear of your newest venture. Raine
connie butterfield April 18, 2012 at 05:36 PM
That is awesome! I'm proud to say i worked with her! And that i know her as a FAMOUS author someday!
Héctor Rafael Orozco Aguirre July 08, 2012 at 05:46 AM
I personally met Colette. She is such a fantastic woman. She told me about the story. It was really nice to hear her. I am very happy because I got a fragment of the story. She is the best.

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