The pilot of theon a quest to take tourists to see the at the bottom of the ocean has a personal connection to two victims of the doomed shipwreck. Records show that OceanGate CEO and pilot Stockton Rush’s wife, Wendy Rush, is a descendant of a famous elderly couple who died during the 1912 incident.
Wendy Rush, who is the director of communications and an expedition team member for OceanGate, according to her LinkedIn, is related to Ida and Isidor Straus, the latter of whom was a co-owner of Macy’s. New York Times archives show that Rush – born Wendy Hollings Weil – is the great-great-grandaughter of the couple, with her father, Dr. Richard Weil III, being the grandson of the couple’s daughter, Minnie Straus Weil.
The Strauses were among first-class passengers aboard theon its maiden voyage. And witnesses at the time said their final trip together was heroic.
According to the U.K. government’s National Archives, Ida and Isidor had been directed to a lifeboat after the ship hit the iceberg, but Isidor refused to take a seat, saying he wanted younger men to be able to do so. And when he refused, so did Ida, reportedly saying, “Where you go, I go.” Instead, Ida helped their maid Ellen Bird onto a boat and gave her her fur coat, saying she would no longer need it. Bird survived.
The last time the couple was seen, the National Archives says, they were “on deck holding hands before a wave swept them both into the sea.”
The story was apparently confirmed at Carnegie Hall in May 1912 while thousands were gathered at a memorial for the couple. During the service, then New York City Mayor William Jay Gaynor recounted testimony from other passengers who had survived.
“The women were being taken off in boats, and many women refused to go. They would not leave their husbands,” the New York Times reported him as saying on May 13, 1912. “…And when Mr. Straus and those around her tried to induce her to take to a boat, we have it authentic that she said: ‘We have been together a long time. I will not leave you. Where you go, I shall go.’ And she stayed and met cheerfully his fate. She was content to go with him.”
Their story has also been told by other descendants. In 2017, their great-grandson Paul Kurzman told the Today Show that when Isidor was offered a seat, he responded, “Until I see that every woman and child on board this ship is in a lifeboat, I will not enter into a lifeboat myself.” Kurzman had heard the story from the couple’s oldest daughter during Sunday dinners.
He also learned that the coat Ida had given Bird had long remained in her possession. At one point, Bird tried to return the coat to Kurzman’s grandmother, who reportedly told her, “This coat is yours. I want you to keep it in memory of my mother.”
Kurzamn said James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster movie paid homage to the couple’s story. In perhaps one of the film’s most emotional scenes, as the band plays a final song on the ship’s deck, and elderly first-class passenger couple is seen holding each other in bed as water rushes into their room. A deleted scene from the film also shows the famed scene in which they refuse to leave each other.
Ida’s body was never recovered from the sea, according to the National Archives, while Isidor’s was eventually found and buried in New York’s Woodlawn Cemetary. Ida and Isidor, both born on February 6, were 63 and 67 years old, respectively, at the time of their deaths.