SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Special Report

April 8, 2012

Matriarch's survival story inspires Pa. family

HERMITAGE, Pa. — There are days when Sharon George gets tired, and like anyone who works full-time and runs a household, gets a little overwhelmed.

But all the Jefferson Township, Pa., woman has to do is look to her past and find strength in her family legacy. After all, her great-grandmother survived the sinking of the Titanic.

"She is, to me, the most fascinating person in my family, which is an interesting comment because I never actually met her," said the 49-year-old, referring to Shanini George Wahabe, who passed away in 1947. "Hearing about her and reading about her and listening to my relatives talk about her, I feel some kind of connection to her … She was the matriarch of the family and was loved by everyone. I know you have a tendency to put your deceased on a pedestal, but she represents what is the very best of the George family."

After listening to family stories about Shanini surviving the Titanic tragedy, Sharon and her cousin Shayen George of Hubbard, Ohio, began doing research into the history of this great-grandmother that neither had ever actually met. And what Sharon began to discover was the story of a woman who not only typified the American dream, but was a spiritual role model as well.

"Her personality was incredibly strong, but she was also very soft and mild and non-confrontational," Sharon said. "She was very sentimental and affectionate. She had this profound sense of caring for others that was amazing, yet she was probably stronger than any one of us."

"She was also profoundly saddened by the fact that all these other people lost their loved ones," Sharon added, referring to her great-grandmother’s passage on the R.M.S. Titanic.

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