Nestled in remote area of Chhatisgarh, Janjgir-Champa is a town hardly anyone would believe to have sent a passenger for the luxury liner ‘Titanic.’
Janjgir-Champa indeed sent a passenger, a missionary Annie Clemmer Funk, who had made this town her home. She was among the 1500 souls who perished onboard Titanic on April 15, 1912. Annie was on her way to visit her ailing mother in America.
Annie arrived in India as a Mennonite missionary in 1906 from America and served in Janjgir-Champa on her mission. In 1908, she opened a one-room school and hostel for poor girls and taught 17 students initially. She also learnt Hindi during her India stay. The school was later renamed as Annie C Funk Memorial School.
Not much is left of Annie’s school with only outer walls surviving the wreckage of time but her story is a legend in Janjgir-Champa. All that is left of Annie’s time here is a small plaque which describes her brief but extraordinary life and her tragic death onboard the liner.
According to Sarojini Singh, the principal of Saint Thomas school here, the memorial school was running till 1960 but was closed soon after.
The story of Annie is equally heartbreaking as that of the liner. From Janjgir-Champa, Annie reached Mumbai via rail and boarded a ship for England. She was to take ‘SS Haverford’ from Southampton for America but the ship was laid off because of a strike by coal labourers.
She was offered to change her ticket for Titanic for 13 pounds. Annie bought a second class ticket, whose number was 237671. She also celebrated her 38th birthday on the ship with her co-passengers, according to Gameo.org, an online encyclopaedia on Global Anabaptist Mennonite.
On the fateful night of April 14, Titanic hit the iceberg and Annie was alerted in her cabin. She soon reached the deck where passengers were being put into lifeboats.
Annie was offered a seat in a rescue boat when she saw a woman with a child. As there was only one seat left, the missionary decided to offer it to the mother, thus saving two lives.
Annie is being remembered in the U.S. on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic. A documentary titled ’Remembering Annie Funk’ is scheduled to be screened in her homestate, Pennsylvania, according to Mennonite Heritage Centre website.
British family history website Ancestry.co.uk too mentions Annie’s name in the list of 1500 odd passengers who died when Titanic, hailed as the unsinkable ship and on its maiden journey, hit the bottom of Atlantic after running into an iceberg.